In my work building we have a couple of elevators. We have the ‘goods lift’ near the laboratories and we have what I guess is the ‘people lift’ which happens to be right next door to my office. My office is on the fourth floor of the building but that works out to be only two flights of stairs from the entry way. Let me explain:
Our building starts counting the levels on floor 1 like the USA system (rather than ‘ground floor’ like most buildings in Australia), and the first floor is actually the basement – it is underground on the goods lift end, and a little less underground my end of the building – you can enter Floor 1 from outside but you enter into a windowless hallway and it is particularly uninviting.
Level 2 is where the reception office and the foyer is located and is a much more welcoming way to enter the building. I usually walk a little further up the foot path and enter at Floor 2. Then, if you’re still following me with the arithmetic, you only need to walk up two flights of stairs to get to my office on Level 4.
Now I know that walking up the stairs is much better for my health than taking the lift but I am quite a lazy person and to have a lift right there next to my office is pretty tempting! So I made a rule for myself: I can take the lift to my office only if the lift is on the same level as I am. No pressing the button to call the lift – if it’s not there, then I need to take the stairs. This is a rule for me only, I just want to make that clear. I was telling someone about this stupid rule at one stage and they thought it applied to everyone in the building and started to get upset on our behalf! No, this is a self-imposed rule to stop the majority of the laziness.
It’s amazing how this sort of rule works for me. Making a decision each time as to whether I will take the lift, or do the right thing and walk up the stairs, can become a strain – especially if I’ve been making a lot of decisions lately. But if I’ve worked some sort of rule out beforehand then I don’t even need to think. I just do what the rule says. It stops some brain clutter.
Anyway, this year it all became a moot point because the old elevator finally died. And it died properly. The man came and looked at it and said that we needed a new part. And we got an email from the building controller saying that the new part would take at least 12 weeks to arrive. I had to take the stairs. Walking to the other end of the building for the goods lift was out of the question, it would be too much of a statement. Using the goods lift said ‘I’m so lazy that I will walk to the other end of the building to avoid two flights of stairs’ I wasn’t prepared to make that statement so I just got a lot less lazy and a lot more used to taking stairs. Stair master? Pfft who needs it?! I had REAL stairs to go up and down many times each day.
And then one day I climbed the stairs, rounded the corner and nearly ran smack bang into a six foot tall, blue metal box. No it wasn’t a TARDIS (though it surprised me enough that it could have been), it was the part – the ordered part for the lift. Suddenly the delivery time made more sense. This was not just a little hold-in-the-hand bit of electronics, or even a slightly bigger two-men-to-carry take-it-up-the-fire-escape mess of cables. This was HUGE. There were six men standing around trying to figure out how to get it up the stairs to the roof to install it. It was THE PART.
They got it up the stairs eventually (I don’t know how) and the work began in earnest. The cables were all pulled out, there was a little camp set up at the lift entrance for my floor, and as I work so close to it I got to get to know the workmen quite well. I listened to their music (good taste, fortunately) and listened in on their phone conversations. I got to hear the guy say ‘I’m just an electrician, I know nothing about this stuff and I’ve been told to fix it’ and I tell you, I started to wonder whether the thing would ever be fixed.
The guy came over from Germany and the other guy from Melbourne and they stood around with the electrician discussing the open heart surgery that they were performing. They let me know that they were taking the guts out of an old lift and trying to install new-lift-technology type guts and that it would be ‘so much easier’ just to install a new system but of course that was not possible. The fix took weeks!
Then one day I came to work and the little camp was all packed up and put away and the ‘out of order’ signs were taken down and we could use the lift again! I got so excited! It was the end of the year and I was getting tired and my rules allowed the use of the lift if it said it was at level 2. It was all go again!
Only it wasn’t. I pressed the button and nothing happened. The ‘out of order’ signs went back up and the guy came back and started poking around again. He sprayed some evil smelling stuff and tweaked a few things and took down the signs and went away. I thought ‘I’ll try again tomorrow.’
The next day came and I tried again. I pressed the button and nothing worked. And the guy came back, and this time we were assured that it was working.
One morning I went out for coffee with a couple of colleagues and when we came back we thought we’d take the lift back up to the fourth floor. We all worked on that floor and I thought it would be faster, and easier on the knees of one bloke (who was suffering a bit from an old injury). Ok, I’m making excuses, I just wanted to take the lift, ok? I was feeling lazy. It was new. I just wanted to!
We pressed the button and the doors opened. That was encouraging. We got in and pressed the number 4 and the doors closed and the lift creaked into action. So far, so good. Then at around floor three there was a jolt, a groan, and the lift stopped moving. Hands clutched for the rails around the side. Hearts leapt into mouths. Time stood still.
Then the lift started moving upwards and we all breathed again.
So, the lift works. But I’m not following my self-imposed rule much any more. It’s just too scary. I’ll take the stairs. Hey, it’s better for my health anyway. Less chance of a fear-induced heart attack!
This is one of the many men fixing the lift – it’s the view from my office. The little stick sticking out high in the wall on the right is what you stick in to make the lift stop working and it allows you to open the doors manually. I learn new things every day!