And now for something…

July 26, 1996

Is it just me or do elevators have minds of their own? Honestly, I’ve never met an elevator that didn’t seem designed to irritate people. Not that some of the people help–how many times have you run down the hall only to see some grinning businessman wink at you right as the doors close? What a thrill it would be to see someone like that get his tie caught in the doors, but elevators have an instinctive sense about who has enough money to have them taken apart and sold for scrap. They also know when you’re in a hurry–that’s when they creep along while you have visions of snails leaving you in the dust.

That’s also when they stop at every single floor even though there’s no one there, which is how elevators laugh at us. This didn’t happen in the old days. No, there was a time when uniformed men stood by the panel and made elevators behave. Those brass buttons and red coats concealed hammers and wrenches and other elevator training devices. Sometimes in fancy hotels you can still hear a whip crack and a stern voice shouting "DOWN!" But, sadly, elevator obedience is a dying art. In our enlightened age the struggle for elevator freedom has its greatest achievements behind it, although technology promises new and exciting things. Many elevators now have voices, so that while we might not know where we are, we at least know where we’re going. Someday new innovations will ensure that, in the event of a breakdown, we can talk to the elevator, rather than each other.

That’s the view from my office this week. Remember, Freethinkers Anonymous is brought to you by the Freethinkers’ Institute in Columbo, Sri Lanka, conveniently located between Papadum’s Pizza and McDonalds.


DUBIOUS ACHEIVEMENT AWARDS — BRITISH DIVISION

The following is from the British Sunday Express giving Gongs (medals) for dubious distinctions.

Tortoise Trophy

To British Rail, which ingeniously solved the problem of lateness in the InterCity express train service by redefining "on time" to include trains arriving within one hour of schedule.

Rubber Cushion

To John Bloor, who mistook a tube of superglue for his hemorrhoid cream and glued his buttocks together.

Crimewatch Cup

Gold star: To Henry Smith, arrested moments after returning home with a stolen stereo. His error was having tattooed on his forehead in large capital letters the words "Henry Smith". His lawyer told the court: "My client is not a very bright young man."

Silver star: To Michael Robinson, who rang police to deliver a bomb threat, but became so agitated about the mounting cost of the call that he began screaming "Call me back!" and left his phone number.

Bronze star: To Paul Monkton, who used as his getaway vehicle a van with his name and phone number painted in foot-high letters on the side.

British Cup

To the passengers on a jam-packed train from Margate to Victoria, who averted their eyes while John Henderson and Zoe D’Arcy engaged in oral sex and then moved onto intercourse … but complained when the pair lit up post-coital cigarettes in a non-smoking compartment.

Flying Cross

To Percy the Pigeon, who flopped down exhausted in a Sheffield loft, having beaten 1,000 rivals in a 500 mile race, and was immediately eaten by a cat. Alas, the 90-minute delay resulting from finding his remains and handing his ID tag to the judges relegated Percy from first to third place.

Lazarus Laurel

To Julia Carson, who as her tearful family gathered round her coffin in a New York funeral parlour, sat bolt upright and asked what the hell was going on. Celebrations were short-lived, due to the fact that Mrs. Carson’s daughter, Julie, immediately dropped dead from shock.

Silver Bullet

To poacher Marino Malerba, who shot a stag standing above him on an overhanging rock — and was killed instantly when it fell on him.

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