Sunday, August 26, 2007

Elevator confessions

As I've mentioned, I live in an old building. Outside of bringing the wiring up to code when the place went condo, and the new appliances some of the owners have put in, there hasn't been a lot of modernizing since, well, 1940.

That includes the elevator. It's the same one that was installed when the building was originally built, and it's a real throwback. You press the button to call it, and when it comes and the inside sliding door rolls back, you pull the doorknob on the outer door to get in. It's only big enough to hold two people comfortably, and if you're going to two separate floors, the second person has to wait to press the button for their floor after the other person gets to theirs. The elevator is purely mechanical -- no computer to remember floors or anything else.

I came home the other day to find the building manager walking down the driveway with tools in hand. He explained that the lights had gone out in the elevator car, and he couldn't figure out why. Unfortunately it was Friday afternoon, so a repair person wouldn't be able to come by until Monday. In the meantime, the manager said, he'd put a flashlight into the car so it wouldn't be completely dark. I went in and checked it out -- yeah, it was dark, but the flashlight made it a little less spooky.

On Saturday, I went out for groceries, and being that I'm on the third floor, my usual practice is to bring the bags in through the back entrance and take the lift. When it came down to the basement, I opened the door to find two of those electric candle thingies in the back corners of the cab. They gave off a soft, flickering glow. In fact, at first I was confused into thinking they were actually lit wax candles.

So here I was, in a small box - a booth, almost -- with candles burning and a tiny window to see out. Hmm...

"Forgive me father, for I have sinned."

"How long has it been since your last confession?"

"Uh, let's see... I had to take the trash out Wednesday night. Maybe it was then ... do you remember seeing me carrying a sack of used cat litter?"

The Catholic church should check out the concept. Imagine if every elevator doubled as a confessional. The impact in office buildings alone would be tremendous, as people would be less inclined to make snide comments when other people leave the elevator. And I'd bet that the number of afternoon rendevous at upscale Manhattan hotels would plummet.

Then again, it probably wouldn't work. Nobody talks in elevators in normal circumstances. It's even more awkward when you're trapped in one alone with someone who insists on having an inane conversation with you. Imagine being stuck in there with a priest who's assigning penance. How many floors, how many Hail Marys?

It might be safer just to take the stairs.

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