Even though I ride in elevators almost every day I still like them. The elevator is a wonderful piece of technology. For those in Britain it’s called a “lift”, which seems weird to me. If you’re in an elevator going down in Britain is it called a “lower”? And it would have been weird if Roald Dahl had written a book called Charlie And The Great Glass Lift—it would have sounded like a heist committed by glaziers, but that’s another story.
It does bother me that most of the elevators I ride in now are the ones with four solid metal walls. I like elevators with a window that looks out onto the world. That’s probably because when I was a kid my father would sometimes take the family out to dinner with business clients and then we’d go to the Sheraton hotel, back then called the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, in downtown Nashville. It had a revolving restaurant—which is still there, and looks like a flying saucer landed on top of the building, although the restaurant doesn’t revolve anymore. Watching the skyline change was interesting but what I really liked was the Sheraton was one of those hotels that had elevators with curved windows that faced the interior of the building, and I’d stand there and watch in amazement as we zoomed up from the lobby to the top floor.
Recently the maintenance guys in the building where I work have shut down one of the elevators for, I hope, some good reason, so the two that remain in operation get pretty crowded. I find myself talking to a lot more people now, and I recently discovered that the ride from my floor to the lobby is just long enough to tell Steven Wright’s elevator joke:
I got into an elevator at work and this man followed in after me… I pushed “1” and he just stood there… I said, “Hi, where you going?” He said, “Phoenix.” So I pushed Phoenix. A few seconds later the doors opened, two tumbleweeds blew in.
And it even leaves a little extra time for people to laugh uncomfortably and move away from me.
Then the other morning a woman got into the elevator with me and as she did her phone suddenly said, “Turn left. Your destination will be on your left.”
We laughed and I said, “I hope you put in the right directions and this is where you’re going.” It didn’t occur to me to ask if by any chance she might be on her way to Phoenix.