Friday, October 17, 2008

Homo elivatoris

As long as I'm making observations about my workplace, I'd like to mention that the building that I've worked in for years has two stories. It also has an elevator. The elevator is next to one of the stairwells. Like most of my fellow employees, I have very seldom been in the elevator -- it's only one flight of stairs, and it's quicker to take the stairs than to wait for the elevator.

That is, until a couple months ago, when my right knee finally deteriorated to the point where I can no longer climb stairs. So now I ride in the elevator every day.

I work in a factory, and this is an industrial elevator. It's like a padded cell. Literally. All the walls are covered from ceiling to floor and edge to edge with furniture pads. I guess this is to keep the walls from being scratched by the carts carrying parts, product, and equipment between the floors, but what's the point is of having nice, unmarred walls if no one ever sees them. On the other hand, is protecting the walls the real purpose of the padding? Several Elevator People explained to me that the walls were padded to get us ready for the place we'll all be living in after twenty years of working here.

"Elevator People?" you ask. Yes. The Elevator People. There's a small group of people who always take the elevator, and I was surprised to find that they have their own hidden sub-culture, inside the larger culture of my workplace. I'm not making this up. The Elevator People have their own rituals, one of which, the Rite of Initiation, applied whenever a new Regular Elevator Rider appears (like me), is to Tell The Padded Cell Joke.

Another ritual keys on the elevator only serving two floors: Think up new and entertaining ways to ask the others in the elevator which floor they are going to. For example, when we get in on the first floor, the person closest to the button will turn to the others and say, "You're going to the Penthouse with me, right?" Or, "Would you like to go all the way to the sun deck?" My favorite was when I got in on the second floor, and the only other person in there turned to me before pushing "1" and asked, in a creepy voice, "Going to the dungeons with me, Mahster?"

Then there's the guy who calls out the "departments" on each floor, as though we were in Macy's or Fields: "First Floor: menswear, shoes, small appliances, winter coats." When we get to the second floor: "Second floor: accessories, cosmetics, jewelry, ladies lingerie." He declares different "departments" on different trips, but for some reason ladies lingerie is always on the second floor.

I'm glad to have stumbled upon the Elevator People. It makes me wonder what other hidden pockets of lunacy we might have.


congratulations on working with such a special crew! please keep us apprised if they change their announcements with the holidays.
And where did the elevator people come from?? Did they emmigrate from the land of asthma? Or are they also folks with detiorating joints?
Many of the Elevator People are riding the elevator for obvious reasons -- I'll leave it at that -- but many others either have an undetectable afflication or are just averse to stairs. I can't explain it.

But, if you are a Nero Wolfe fan, I'd like to call your attention to the fact that although Wolfe detested machines, and was always terrified when riding in a car, he had complete and unquestioning faith in his elevator, which could have dropped him down the shaft at any moment. There was even the one story where the rooftop (where some of the elevator machinery must reside) was riddled with machine-gun fire, and Wolfe still took the elevator up to see what had happened.

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