5/16/2011

When I am King: Ups and Downs

When I am King...

Buildings will only have single stories.

Elevators are such wonderful spaces. They take people who enjoy a personal space between themselves and others roughly the distance that a bullet travels, stuff them in a space just large enough to raise tender veal, and make them ride together on a journey of awkwardness. We stare at the numbers clicking by, we stare at the floor, and we stare at the doors, willing them to open on our floor so that we can finally run to our cubes and breathe heavily into the paper bag that we keep there for that purpose.

Meanwhile, we’re all in a hurry, and the time spent in that stall with no toilet is wasted. It’s as if you’re hurrying down the hall and then pause, motionless, for a couple of minutes. It’s probably a helpful tactic when being chased by a motion-sensing reptile, or when having a seizure, but is otherwise useless. So many things need our immediate attention, but we’re stuck in that place just because of our need to move in the vertical direction.

When the doors open somewhere along the way, they stay open for just about ever. When you’re about to do something really desperate like verbalize your impatience to your fellow travelers, the doors begin slowly sliding closed. Then someone on the outside hits the Up button and the waiting game starts again.

The only defense we have against open doors is the Close button. It’s right down there next to the Open button, with a very similarly illegible icon. So we casually jamb our finger on the button and wait for the doors to respond. And wait. And wait.

The thing is, the inventors put the button there to make us feel like we were doing something. But they didn’t want the elevator to actually have that functionality. Either through cheapness, or an inherent pride in the workmanship of the Open feature, they decided to abandon the Close feature at the level of the button. You can push it all you want - those doors will close when they’re damn good and ready.

The elevator close button is the placebo of the mechanical transportation industry.

On some advanced and expensive elevators, the button is hooked up, because it’s considered tacky and cheap to simply have it sitting there with nothing behind it. Unfortunately, these elevators hook it up to the Open function, which explains why pressing the Close button makes it seem like it takes even longer than it does otherwise. Those doors remain open as long as we hold the Close button.

Sure, we could take the stairs and avoid all of this hassle, but then we’d just be made aware of how out of shape we are, and who needs that extra guilt?

When I am King, buildings will only have single stories. A second story is like a sequel: a pale imitation of the first, produced just because they figured they already spent all that time and money with the first one, they might as well do another one. Single stories will eliminate the awkwardness of the elevator experience and give us back the time that we would have spent standing too close to other human beings, so that we have more time to post status messages and emails to friends that comfortably far away.

If you really want to take the stairs, there’s always the gym. And if you miss the elevator, you can always ask a group of strangers to follow you into a toilet stall.

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