“Was that emanation from you, madam?

old-elevator-by-luis-argerich1If a gentleman is to break wind in an elevator he should first remove his hat.” An etiquette rule from 1894, I believe.

Sorry, that little crudism is to indicate the topic of elevators will dominate this blog. Or, if you live across the big pond, then ‘lifts’, which I actually think is a preferable word as it is shorter and offers less chance for error.

But, about breaking wind in elevators – nah, I think enough has been said and we likely all have our horror stories, and frankly I don’t want to hear them.

Nowadays we take elevators for granted, yet did you know that prior to their widespread use most buildings were no higher than six floors. With the innovations of Elisha Otis in the 1850s, elevators became widely used quite rapidly and this led, ultimately to the advent of the skyscraper. Otis, did not actually invent the elevator, what he invented was the brake for when it reached assorted floors, rendering tall buildings of the sort leapt by Superman feasible.

Some people are phobic about elevators and have anxieties about their cables breaking and the car plummeting to the ground at breakneck speed. But, as WC Fields once opined it’s not the plummeting that will kill you it’s the abrupt stop at teh bottom that’ll do the damage. Surprisingly perhaps, very rarely has this happened and more people have been killed by falling into open elevator shafts.

Lift phobics are also apprehensive about being trapped in an elevator that ceases functioning in mid-voyage. You hear tales of people jammed up in stuck elevators in which it has taken at times many, many hours to extricate them. This has left me with the question that if it was a long time, where do the people go to the bathroom? How do they decide on the appropriate urination spot? Do they take a poll if there is a few of them in the car? And if they are boys and girls there is bound to be a bit of embarrassment.

I was once trapped in a lift in a London hotel. My co-passenger was an attractive blonde lady. We were only stuck for about a half hour but when you don’t know how long you will actually be in the situation you tend to get uneasy. Fortunately we weren’t there long enough to have to worry about nature calling in an embarrassing way. Oh well, it would have enabled us to get to know each other more intimately than we’d intended, what with English reserve and all being put to the ultimate test.

The oddest elevator I ever rode was in a Brussels hotel a few years ago. It was ancient and tiny and invariably made us uneasy since it seemed to be the vintage of an Otis original. On one ride a young female hotel staffer joined us and noted that “I so hate this lift. It’ s so old i always think it’s going to crash to the basement.” Her comment wasn’t reassuring.

1evators. I think they’re cool and a bit like going up in a helicopter as the ground disappears beneath one’s feet. Wendy, who does not share my height anxiety cannot, however, ride in them.

Prior to 9/11 doubtless one of the most terrifying elevator moments came in July 1945 when a B-25 bomber crashed into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building. The impact, which killed 14 people also caused an elevator to plummet earthward. Blessedly, safety devices in the lift stopped its progress and the two women in the elevator survived their injuries. Wonder if they were able to ride an elevator again?

Nowadays, as we see our cities grow up and up ad infinitim Babel-tower wise I am sometimes left with the thought that maybe Mr. Otis’s innovation hasn’t served us all that well in our phallic-building obsession.

I rather like the idea of the Island of Kauai that steadfastly holds to a construction rule that deems there cannot be any structure taller than a coconut palm.

One response to ““Was that emanation from you, madam?

  1. As the population grows so must the height of a building, or else we’ll cover the whole earth in no time at all in new construction. I’m in favor of low buildings myself but I also enjoyed making a couple of babies who will eventually need a place to live and work… I can’t really expect to have it all while others do not, can I? As for my preferences, a short trap in a nice elevator doesn’t sound so bad. It’d be like a forced break, yes?

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