I inspect the industrial chic carpet, worn and scuffed beneath thousands of feet as I approach the stainless steel doors, a pair on either side of the call button and fire alarm. Before I can reach out to press the up button: the only one available at this level; the doors on the right open with a ding and the orangeish-yellow notification light glows, heralding anticipation of my need.
Odd. Perhaps it’s a strange technical glitch? I’m not about to question a fortuitous event. I step over the ridged metal doorstop and enter. How was I to realize this might be an omen?
Both sides of the elevator have the same panel of buttons for the five floors. I press the round plastic circle beside the number five. I push firmly, but the light doesn’t appear. Maybe it shouldn’t? I glance to the opposite panel and the fifth button is lit. Apparently, the light has burnt out or the button has been damaged.
A grinding noise announces the slow commencement of a shuddering ascent. At least it is slow, I reassure myself between the shaking and sound. A glance is made to locate the emergency stop button. Something to know, just in case.
I regard the lights over the doors which show the approaching floor. The grating noise intensifies with every foot’s progress. The light for one blinks off swiftly and no lights are lit, other than the one side panel. Eventually, after what seems an incredible delay, the light for three blinks on. Another burnt out light?
Rather than torture myself with derilict lights, I look to the panels forming the rear and sides of this metal box. Greyish speckled sheets of some two inch substance that seems to act as a dampening force for sound, or perhaps emotional consternation at the swaying cage which continues its agonized groaning grind upwards.
The scratches in the panels provide no confidence. One corner of one rectangle has been chipped or kicked away and the rounded excision point looks as if something might have gnawed upon it at alligator level. Some of the scratchmarks are deep. I contemplate posting signs for alligator prohibition purposes. I wouldn’t want to be trapped with whatever has stained and damaged the plywood cage protection!
My attention moved to the metal doors. Willing them to open and this rattling ride to end, I stared at the space where the steel (or were they aluminum?) met with a barely visible crease. About waist high were gouges scraping across the metal: sharp lines of white where the metal had been peeled away from the doors. I couldn’t figure out if this was the result of a rabid crowbar-wielding maniac or the jaws of life to extract a poor unfortunate soul from the alligators.
A deeper squeal started as the grating scrape of the elevator car against rails stuttered and slowed. I prayed this was my floor. I prayed the doors would open. I prayed no alligator would emerge as the source of the grinding noises before I could escape. There was a lot of time available for prayer.
Finally, with the same sort of bumping, stuttering stop as a plane landing in the turbulence of high winds, there was a thump and a ding and the doors opened. With a newfound appreciation for my health, I decided I would henceforth be a patron and user of the stairs.