The elevator

iphone pix 195

I work in an office in Albany (three days a week) and the way I have to get to the office from the street parking lot several blocks away is to go straight up a steep wooded hill (which contains some cinder block steps in parts of it but is otherwise just a trail cut through the woods) (in Albany, recall), and then cross the street and end up right at the back of the building. A person going up this trail must take his or her chances but will end up saving about ten minutes. Plus there is the very real workout you get climbing up that hill every morning, and the very real challenge you feel climbing down the slippery sections each evening.

But, if the hill seems too hazardous or wet or snowy, you can also take the long way, which is about ten minutes longer and is so ridiculously out of the way that, if you’re me, you might only save this for days when the hill truly is impossible to climb (and even then you might find yourself attempting the hill only to find yourself not exactly standing for much of it). But there is one part of the long way to work that makes it somewhat worthwhile. I mean, if you’re already headed that way and are resigned to it.

First, you leave the parking lot and walk to the end of the block and then turn and head into a parking garage, in which you must (if you don’t care to walk it) (most people don’t) take the elevator to the seventh floor, then walk down a long block, make a left and walk down an even longer block until you get to the front of the building. If it’s a really cold and snowy day (why you were forced to go the long way in the first place) that long walk is really no fun at all. However, there is one part of it that, if you’re paying attention, can actually be somewhat thrilling. I’m talking about the elevator.

The elevator basically takes you up the same hill that you would (on a nicer day) be walking up. Because it’s a glass elevator, you can actually witness the climb, which is what I mean by somewhat thrilling. But the crazy thing I have found is that most people get into the elevator, step back, and stand facing the closed metal doors, as you would do in a normal elevator. Whenever I witness this I am always thinking, Are you fucking crazy, people? TURN AROUND! Because there, right behind you, is a glass wall. And through that glass wall, you can watch yourself rise into the woods. I am always the only person facing the back of the elevator and I never care at all. It just never gets tired. The ride is probably just a few seconds, but a few joyous seconds if you’re facing the right way.

I have a long history with elevators. Never was this made clearer to me than when my ex-husband and I took our girls to Boston many years ago and my younger daughter (about three at the time) absolutely panicked in the hotel elevator and had to hold onto me with her eyes tightly shut. My older daughter (then age six) asked a lot of questions about it and was beside herself with joy just to push the buttons. They knew nothing about elevators!

As for me, from the time I was six, I took an elevator pretty much every single day of my life. I lived on the ninth floor of a fifteen-story building in the Bronx, and by the time I was coming home from school by myself (a few years later) the elevator ride was such an ordinary part of the day.

However, there was one thing about elevators that puzzled me. I am referring to those mysterious locks on the wall panel. There were the regular rows of buttons, sure, but every elevator also had at least one lock, and sometimes more. For a period of time, I became fascinated with these locks and wondered what exactly they were for. I imagined that a special key could unlock a magical world on the other side of the elevator. I would stare and stare at the lock, thinking about how I might possibly unlock it.

There was a day that I was staring at that lock, and realizing that I, in fact, had a key that opened my apartment door, wondered what might happen if I tried to fit my own key into the elevator lock. Then I became obsessed with the thought. I longed for the day that I would finally be alone in the elevator, to try my key and take my chances with whatever happened next. As you can imagine, eventually that day came. I was alone in the elevator and I stood holding my key, my heart pounding. Finally, I tried my key in the lock. It fit perfectly! I was so terrified that I removed it immediately. I couldn’t imagine what would have happened to me if I’d actually turned the key. It all seemed like a terrible idea now. I figured I’d probably gotten off easy. I never tried it again.

This winter I have not taken the long way to work yet (the photo above is from last winter) because of the unusual absence of snow we’ve had to date. Sure, it snowed some yesterday and a bit today, but the path through the woods is still (mostly) manageable. Which means that I may not end up taking the glass elevator this winter at all. On the one hand, it always seems like such a hassle to get to it. But on the other hand, the glass elevator. I’ll probably have to do it at least one time this year, just for the young me, who would have naturally faced the back of the elevator for the entire ride (even if it was every day) just to watch herself rise into the woods, but also, quite possibly, to avoid looking at the lock on the opposite wall that was no doubt just waiting to be opened.


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