I spend a lot of time during my work day in elevators. Each one is different, with its own character; even those within the same building have subtle characteristics – even, dare I say, personalities.
Some are small and cramped, while others are large and spacious; a few are long rectangles but most are barely rectangular in plan. The vast majority have at least some bare stainless steel on floors, walls, or doors – maybe there’s something about stainless steel that just screams “health sciences.” Some are creaky and arthritic, groaning their way reluctantly upwards, fluorescent lights flickering and plastic buttons cracked and broken, slowly marking the passage of the floors with incandescent bulbs shining through yellowed plastic. Some are shiny and new, springing with youthful vitality into the towering heights, ticking off the floors on a clean LCD display, travelling with such velocity that you have to pop your ears upon reaching the top.
The elevators in the main thoroughfares are usually well-maintained, fast, and well-traveled. In contrast, ones that are off the proverbial beaten path (not service elevators per se but just secondary ones) often look run-down, have strange odors, and are either too hot or too cold. You’d be hard-pressed to do the classical awkward “elevator-stare” in, say, an elevator on the backside of the Mayo building, because there’s never anyone in there to do it with. It’s almost as if those elevators were red-headed stepchildren by design – the architects saying, “let’s put this weird off-brand elevator over in this corner; no one will notice that half the buttons will be broken in five years and it takes ten minutes to traverse one floor.”
What also makes my time in the elevator interesting is the people. Everyone knows the aforementioned elevator stare: the awkward glancing around, nervous shuffling, preening, and staring at the floor display in seemingly rapt attention, as if stealing a glance at the person next to you will elicit a flurry of fatal stabs from his clipboard. Everyone has a different “elevator personality,” though; one woman actually said, “hi, how are you?” I was a little flabbergasted; thankfully (or not), she wasn’t some smoking hot blonde (cue Aerosmith). One old man was bent over, leaning against the wall, biting his nails furiously so that I could hear his teeth clipping each one.
Much of my AO consists of various clinics, so there’s a huge cross-section of people in the elevators: patients, young and old; students, medical and otherwise; doctors, administrative staff, facilities workers, and couriers; and some people who look straight up homeless. Actually, now that I think about it, it would be pretty dangerous if some lethal airborne virus were going around…
I’ve started to think about striking up conversations with my fellow vertical travelers; some of the journeys are long enough to have a decent discussion, and I could probably learn a thing or two along the way. If I was single, it might actually be a good place to meet women – the University is sufficiently labyrinthine that the chances of me pulling off a chivalrous navigational feat are pretty good. Nothing’s sexier than a man who’s good with directions, right?