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An Elevator Romance

Filed under: Looked Into   Tagged: , , , , , ,

That’s the name of a 1911 movie whose IMDb plot synopsis is empty. I bet Robert Benchley saw it at the time, though. He probably followed it up with a short subject called “How to Make Love in an Elevator.” (Get your mind out of the gutter—back then “making love” was more like bundling.)

Anyway, another elevator romance is Nick Paumgarten’s, as demonstrated in his engaging story last week about the curious vertical conveyances in which people stand at genetically predetermined distances. As I read it, I remembered that I’d written something about Paumgarten and elevators before, and it was in 2005, when I was testing out the urban myth he reported on in the October 17 issue of that year. To wit:
Supposedly, if an elevator passenger simultaneously presses the “door close” button and the button for the floor he is trying to reach, he can override the requests of other passengers and of people waiting for the elevator on other floors. The elevator shifts into express mode, racing directly to the floor of his choosing—becoming, in essence, a private lift. Apparently (that is, according to Internet chatter and what you might call secondhand anecdotal evidence), people (pizza men, college students, hotel guests) have been doing this for years, which might explain why the rest of us have occasionally had the feeling that elevators were passing us by.

The experts, however, say that the idea is nonsense, that elevators are not designed to do this, that people are talking crazy.
I did the experiment myself in the Condé Nast building at the time. Did it work? See for yourself! And try it in an elevator near you; let me know what happens. But don’t get stuck. It just goes to show you that no one should ever go anywhere without a good, long book, just in case.

By the way, how about that stylishly trippy photo by Maurizio Cattelan that accompanied the most recent elevator piece? He doesn’t seem to have a website, but I see from this lowercased interview that “cattelan did not attend art school but taught himself. he worked as a cook, gardener, nurse and mortuary attendant, before turning to making art with the hope that the art world might offer him ‘better treatment’.” How’s that for a love story, huh?


Thanks for sharing the tip. This hotel bellman will put that one to the test during his next shift.

You’re welcome!

You know what I can’t get over? What Paumgarten reported about the “Close Door” button being a psychological ruse (at least in newer, craftier elevators) to make the elevator rider feel like the master of his fate rather than a helpless mouse in the careless hand of Steinbeck’s Lennie.

Actually, what I love about making love c. 1911 is that at that time it could be an entirely linguistic exercise …

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