Three fears on elevators

Viktor Bach



I realize that my manners, stemming from my character no less, must be downright savage, but never until now did I manage to figure out why would socializing with neighbours you take the elevator with be required. Especially when, past greeting them before I get in or wherever we meet in the lobby, which some could rightly complain I'm also not very keen on doing, no socializing takes place whatsoever. Living on the third floor means I get off first all the time, either because nobody on the floors below ever bothers to take the elevator or because I never bump into them. My ascent also couldn't be prompter, summing up about ten seconds. Nothing happens. My real gripe is when I should greet again, say goodbye or something, while going out of the lift and leaving the other person behind, if we exchanged no words at all. It's like repeating myself. I'm no good at small talk, either, and never the one to start off. What sort of chatter would it be in such short time? How's your mother? Oh fine. Suddenly breezy outside. Didn't notice. Had a good day? Well, let me tell you. No wait. This is my stop. A few people, sadly closer to our family, also have their dogs with them most of the time, who always loose enough to mingle at my feet. Since that time they jumped on me whilst jogging, these neighbours seem under the impression that I'd be scared of their fidos, always giving me a certain look, as if to say: Don't get anxious. Nothing to worry. Only a couple of floors. Almost there.

In the building where we stayed during the festival, somewhere very central, the elevator was a poorly maintained strange piece of antique, apparently having survived through at least two periods of architectonics — most impressively, the huff of the minds before us, who covered the whole block in foursquare concrete, then our more lenient tendency to leave every exterior the way it is. Except the outer metal door, of a pure communist template, the cage was entirely wooden, wobbling and frailing under every action, the panel old itself but still responding well, a mirror behind as a nice touch if sadly uncleansable, only missing sliding doors to be vintage. The year 1923 was written with a marker inside above, though very likely as a joke, considering the whole cabin was graffiti'd. The floor would lower a bit under weight, so that you'd awfully sink in when stepping inside or have to watch out not to lose balance with one foot out when leaving. The metal doors' knob needed to be twisted a bit in order to shut, something the residents proved surprisingly often to fail or not be handy at and leave it like that. Should you find the elevator in such a state, red light solely bright in eternal standby, you'd have to go up to nine floors, many times several above your own, if you wanted to fix the issue — or, if you were already at a certain floor (fifth in my case), decide whether to check upward or just let yourself crumble down the spiral staircase. One day, the elevator stopped slightly lower at my floor and I caught sight, above the upper beam on which someone perceptively wrote WOOD, of a notebook, a normal big »cahier», simply left there, forsaken. It almost made me embrace childish fantasies about what it could have been, what would I find in it, had I taken it out — it couldn't have really been dropped by accident from above, considering the elevator would not flinch if everything was not proper; was it hidden there on purpose; was it left there to be discovered; could it date back just like the elevator does; could it an accounts book from one of the past or present tenants, or the kind of writings I myself scribble, never with the intent of ever sharing them, but neither discarding them just yet. Still, I eventually never reached for it, the next time it was possible. I guess that counts as some sort of cowardice.

Not this wretched elevator again! Before it started coming down from the sixth floor, I thought I heard some noises, clanks coming from inside the cabin, which could only mean that someone was using it. Given my mood, I decided to rush up the stairs. By the time I reached my third floor, I heard the elevator arriving down, then, after a short stillness, screeching as the main door was pushed wide. It proved right, somebody was in! I get equally distressed in other situations, especially if I see a neighbour approaching from the alley, particularly a familiar one, and my lift is painfully far from arriving or if he's already showing up at the building, seconds away from punching the code at the interphone or ringing home, in which case I either get to jump in or sneak as swiftly and noiselessly as I can before he's inside. Though, most of the times, they find the elevator, which I called, arriving for them, which must make them wonder. If someone is arriving with the elevator in the lobby just as I'm also coming down on the stairs, I hurry on the last few steps so to get outside of the block just as they exit the cabin. If I hear someone coming down the stairs while I'm waiting for the elevator, their footsteps creeping in with every floor, usually being able to tell just where exactly they are right now, I just pray it gets in time. I usually manage to go inside before being seen. Lately, it hasn't been functioning as smoothly. A door's metal contact at the top can get bent, so that you actually have to press yourself the switch with a finger for it to start moving, getting to see the textures of the shaft walls and floor doors glissade. At other times, the elevator just won't budge once I'm in it, as if not recognizing I'm there, not weighing me in. I could sometimes spend up to five minutes trying to make it work — opening and closing the cabin doors, giving the main one a push so to lock again, pressing other buttons, bouncing a bit — to no avail. Then I'd hear the lobby door open and sigh.