It is a small metal box that we ride up and down buildings in, our very own Dr. Who machine. Call it an elevator or a lift, the fact is it has become so ubiquitous in our lives we hardly think about getting in our out of one (except for a few days after watching Speed). Apart from its obvious usefulness it also provides a fascinating pastime – watching its commuters. What a varied bunch!
There are the desperate callers. These are the people who stand outside an elevator and repeatedly punch the Call button, as if with each press of the button the elevator gathers speed and will reach them earlier. Once inside the elevator they either press the button to the floor they want to go over and over again, or use the Close button the moment the elevator stops are a floor.
Closely related to them as the control freaks. Most elevators today have two call buttons – up and down – and you press the one for the direction you want to travel in. Well not these people, they will press the button which tells the elevator which direction it should travel in. So if this person is standing on the second floor, want to go down to the first and the elevator is on the first floor, they will press the Up button. Inside the elevator you will find them pushing the Close button at each stop and even more amusingly pressing the Open button at their floor. What do they think? The elevator will stop at a floor and keep the doors closed?
Still with the bank of buttons outside the elevator, you have the any-which-way callers. These are the ones who will press both the Up and Down button when they call the elevator irrespective of which direction they want to travel.
Then there are what I call the Kerala State Transport riders. These are the ones who will stand just outside the door and charge in to the elevator as if it were a bus that was going to take-off without them. Some of them even have a smug look about them once they enter, like they have achieved some difficult feat by boarding an elevator.
Finally there are the picnickers. People who eat in elevators. In a space as closed as the elevator their eating provides a soundtrack for the elevator ride. The confines amplifying the sound of every scrape, slurp, chew and swallow. There is the extreme version of this rider, the one who has a conversation while eating in an elevator.
For someone who rides the elevators as much as I do, these characters provide a relief from the mundane activity of travelling up and down in a metal box.