What Floor?

In the spirit of life having its ups and downs, God and I made yesterday into elevator adventure day. No, I didn’t get trapped in an elevator (there’s some advantage to having God along, after all). What I did do though, was to gain a little more appreciation for the variety of experiences that are out there in elevatorland.

I now work on the fifteenth floor. This means I spend a lot more time in elevators than I used to. The building where I work is pretty typical. There’s a bank of six elevators and buttons you press to tell the system that you want to go down or up. The one cool thing in my building is that there’s a video screen in every elevator that runs news and advertising, so I get some headlines when coming or going and I get to know what the temperature outside is going to be a minute or so before I get there. I get this “just slightly into the future” feel from it all.

Yesterday I needed to head out to the office of a Title company, to fill out some paperwork for the house I’m selling. I checked their web site for the address, and headed on over. A fairly short three or four block jaunt from my office. When I got there I discovered the usual bank of elevators, but not the usual buttons. There was a ten-key pad with instructions to put in your destination floor. So I punched in thirteen and the display lit up, telling me to get into elevator “C.” Inside the elevator there was no panel of buttons to press for the various floors. There was a display that showed we would be going to floor ten (for the woman who got in with me) and floor thirteen, where I was soon to learn the Title company was no longer located.

I figure this new system was probably invented by someone who got into an elevator after some juvenile delinquent had pressed all the buttons. In any event, it was pretty cool. I got to spend the short ride thinking of different ways that software could optimize the sorting of crowds into the different elevators. Then I got to call the Title company and ask them where they had moved to.

Luckily it was only a block away.

So I got to the new office building, all set to ride up to the twenty-first floor. I went to the bank of elevators, pushed the familiar up button (the only button on the ground floor), and waited for the usual ding. It dinged. I went through the open door. And there were only buttons for floors one through eight. But I’ve been in office buildings before, I know that they often have different banks for different ranges of floors. Not as cool a solution to the problem of grouping people as software directed elevators, but perfectly serviceable.

I got out of the elevator. I looked around. I saw… nothing, or at least nothing that looked like a bank of elevators. Thankfully, there was a concierge there who saw me looking around and asked what I needed. He then directed me around behind his station to another bank that really couldn’t be seen from where I was and also wasn’t particularly obvious from where I had come in. No really, I’m pretty observant and not usually fooled by elevators that are trying to hide. The now revealed elevators were swift and sure, which was good, because they didn’t have any video screens.

So I took care of my paperwork and headed back to my own office. I probably would have just forgotten all about my elevator adventure except that it wasn’t finished yet. It needed one more segment to really cement it in my mind.

The elevator back in my building was a long time coming. I don’t know exactly how long but it was long enough that I gave up just standing and started leaning against the wall, and then I leaned for about as long as I’d been standing. It was realistically probably about three or four minutes, but when you’re waiting for an elevator that’s a surprisingly long amount of time. On the ride up, I got to find out just why I had had to wait so long. Largely ignoring what buttons had been pressed, the elevator was stopping at almost every floor. At plenty of those floors there were people hoping to go down, so I’m pretty sure that the other cars were giving people just as much of the shaft as I was getting.

If the elevator had only chosen to go down a few floors and then back up again I would have felt like I was in a slow motion version of the Tower of Terror at the Disneyland Resort. As it was, it was just enough out of the ordinary to remind me that elevators shouldn’t be taken for granted. So while it wasn’t a particularly exciting finish to my days elevator adventure, it was exciting enough to spice up an otherwise dull day. I told God that the lesson for the day, is that there’s always an adventure waiting to happen if you don’t set your standards too high. She pointed out that with the help of elevators, we can set them a little higher than we used to.

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