Friday, April 11, 2003

Thank You, Mr. Otis

Elevators. This is what's on my mind this week. I usually do not pay not that much attention to them. They're not unlike my stapler at work, or tape dispenser. They're a necessary part of work -- there if you need 'em, but secondary to my job performance.

The elevators at my office are more than a little annoying, but so's my stapler when it's empty. It doesn't destroy me. It's life. You deal with it and move on. I don't mean annoying in the "I need therapy" kind of way, just a sort of daily inconvenience. The office building I work in houses several restaurants: Olive Garden, CPK and Chevy's, to name the biggies. It also happens to be across the street from a fairly major mall, so people eat and shop while their cars stay in the parking garage. What this all amounts to is a rather large amount of people who don't know their way around the office building and frequently misuse the parking garage elevators while wasting my time. They try to go down with me to the "tenants monthly parking" area, when I know darn good and well that there's no way they're parked down there. The puzzled looks on their faces makes up for that inconvenience as they wander around the basement parking level looking for their cars.

No, I'm not really that mean. Sometimes I do take pity on them and tell them there's no possible way their car is where they think it is. Sometimes.

My other favorite thing that happens in the parking garage elevators is when I encounter a person who has obviously been riding the elevator up and down like it's an E ticket ride because they're looking for the 14th floor. Honey, do you see a number 14 anywhere on these buttons? No? Only P1 to P5? Well.....You deserve what you get, don'tcha?

Really! I'm not mean! I just wish people would take an extra 5 seconds out of their day and think.

Anyway, the "real" elevators -- the ones that go to the office floors -- are strange little animals. Elevators in general are strange little animals, really. I've been thinking about them this week, more than anyone, besides maybe Mr. Otis or Willy Wonka should be thinking about elevators, but there you have it. I'm bored at work this week. We willingly step into a small box measuring 8 x 8 x 10, sometimes with complete strangers! and expect it take us somewhere. It generally performs its function correctly. The doors close, we make a selection, make idle conversation with people crammed in there with us, not because we like them, but because what else do you do while staring at people you don't know but can't leave the room? The doors open, et voila! We have been transported to a new location. It's like magic.

The elevators where I work offer the standard options -- a button for each floor, the scary looking red EMERGENCY button, and the well-placed but meaningless Door Open and Door Close buttons. Door Open does its job just fine. When pressed, the doors obligingly open to admit the slacker who refused to run for the door but you feel obligated to wait for anyway.

Door Close -- that's a whole 'nother story. I wonder sometimes what would happen to me if I were in a Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzanegger movie and a bad guy was chasing after me. After a few minutes of running while being chased, I would have to run into the elevator with its yawning doors. (Probably more because I'm out of shape and can't run anymore than because it's the only place left for me to go, but I'll let the writers worry about that plot line.) So here I am, running for my life, dodging bullets. I see the elevator, and it's providence! It's waiting for me! Oh, blessed elevator! My friend. Let's go! Get me out of here! I quickly push the Door Close button, and it does nothing. Of course, I haven't yet made a floor selection. I do so, then press Door Close again. Nothing. Again, again, again. Quick! Bad Guy is coming! Finally, reluctanctly and oh so slowly, the doors close. Too late, though. Here come the grasping, reaching hands of Bad Guy, forcing the door open, and now I'm dead. Or wounded. Whatever. Either way, I'm now trapped in a small room with the Enemy.

Don't scoff! You may think I'm being melodramatic (my mother would), but think about it. We all have at least one Bad Guy or Enemy with whom we work that we wish we never had to associate with. Especially in a windowless and uncooperative moving box. He even has a name here: Art. Yes, it's one of life's great ironies. He is in no way, shape or form art or artistic. He is a scary man with bug eyes who was absent during the very important years of learning social skills at school. Bluntly, he scares me. He is creepy and gives me the creeps.

The elevator, in its evil gleeful way, senses this about me, because it makes me ride with him too frequently. It purposely holds its doors open and waits for him. Big meanie. What have I done to it, after all? I'm nice! I don't ask it to go very far -- only the 5th floor. I touch it every day. And this is the thanks I get!

Yesterday, however, the elevator did something that will forever absolve itself of all guilt and blame. It ate my boss. It could only hold her down for 45 minutes, but it was 45 minutes less in my day of having to deal with her, so who am I to complain that it spewed her back up like a turkey sandwich with mayo left out in the sun?

Thank you, elevator, my friend. Even if you couldn't keep her trapped all day, you hopefully took a few years off her life with that half-floor swooping drop you did. You have fueled my imagination with happy thoughts of how she kept herself occupied for three-quarters of an hour with no one to hear her blather on about her favorite topic -- herself. Most important, I wasn't there with her, for which I am eternally grateful.

May your pulley and gear system always be well-greased and the right people always push your buttons!