Ciao: Living through the up and downs of lives through elevating experiences

BILL KLAUBER

Of all of our modes of transportation there is probably none that we take more for granted than the elevator. For me it is my most used form of public transportation and least intrusive.

There are no rules or regulations to abide. We don’t need tickets on an elevator unless we are going up to the observation areas of buildings like the Empire State Building in New York or the John Hancock Tower in Chicago.

And we don’t need to print our boarding passes in advance, in fact, we don‘t need them at all. Nor are there any frequent flyer miles to keep track of.

Also, rarely do we need to endure delays or intrusions due to a body search or passing through metal detectors unless we are in some government building (including the Collier County Government Center) or other buildings requiring serious security.

Speaking of serious, riding an elevator is so commonplace that there are many jokes about it. There’s the one about the man who got on a crowded elevator and, still facing the other passengers, loudly announced, “Let me tell you why I called this meeting!” Or the individual who proclaimed to his fellow travelers as he exited, “I hope you all have an uplifting day.”

Those attempts at humor are so tired and trite that rarely do they draw more than a snicker, at best. After all, if we wanted comedy we wouldn’t be riding up and down, we’d be watching reruns of “Seinfeld” or “30 Rock,” both of which surely must have had some amusing episodes concerning elevators.

Of course there are some inconveniences that come with elevator riding such as when FIFO (first in, first out) takes over requiring all the other passengers to temporarily disembark for that one rider who went to the back even when he/she would be exiting at the first stop.

And there are other annoyances such as someone trying to talk on a cell phone (mine never seems to work in an elevator) or who insists on carrying on a loud conversation with another passenger.

Those aside, the most common conversation is to wish others a good day as we or they enter or leave, even though we don‘t really care if they do or do not as we are single of purpose. Our sole objective is to get to our floor and disembark. And 99.4 percent of the time we do. However, it is that infinitesimal 00.6 percent of the time when riding an elevator is not as pure as Ivory soap and those can be most distressing.

I am sure most people can recall an agonizing story or two concerning an elevator ride that didn’t go quite as Elisho Otis envisioned when he invented the contraption in 1852. Two come quickly to mind for me.

One occurred in the old Chase Park Plaza hotels in St. Louis. Our overpopulated elevator dropped suddenly and quickly from an upper floor. We were all concerned as the elevator seemingly was gathering speed as it descended. Just as we appeared to be hitting bottom, some safety device must have stopped it and we ended up just below the basement floor. Like passengers on a sinking ship, we worked together to pry the doors open and lift a willing passenger up to where he could grab on to the floor above and lift himself out and summon help for the rest of us.

The other happened at the Fairmont Towers in San Francisco. Our elevator stopped suddenly between the 20th and 21st floors. This elevator had an emergency bell which we rang. As we waited, a passenger became hysterical as she was claustrophobic. We suggested that she look out the glass windows for a view of the outside. Unfortunately, she also had a fear of heights and became even more panicked. She literally was a basket case by the time the elevator was restarted.

I suppose you could say stories like those only prove that riding an elevator can have its ups and downs. And speaking of ups and downs, it is time for me to call the elevator as I have to leave for an appointment.

Hmm, on second thought, I think I’ll take the stairs.

Ciao!

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