The Elevator Girls

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The Elevator Girls

There are two elevators in my building. In the coveted left-hand elevator you can ride alone, but it is rarely on. The identical right-hand elevator is operated by one of three elevator girls, who alternate twelve-hour shifts. The elevator girl's job is to sit on a low stool under the single flickering microwatt fluorescent bulb and press buttons for the various floors. There is no reason for this job to exist; the elevator is modern and identical in every respect to its autonomous twin. But some higher authority has decided that there needs to be a young woman to push the buttons. The elevator girl says hello when you walk in, presses the button for your floor, and when you arrive at the first floor whispers "yì céng" in a faint Hans Christian Andersen voice, so you know you are on the first floor and not, say, back in your New York apartment, realizing this was all some creepy dream.

To make it all even more wrenching, the elevator girls hang out a meager selection of newspapers and magazines along the elevator's inside railing, which they sell for a tiny profit. They read the unsold copies during their twelve hour shifts, squinting under the flickering ghost light. I wish more than anything that I could buy one (all) of these papers from them, but I don't even know enough to make the request, let alone a plausible excuse for why I would buy something entirely in Chinese. And so each day begins with fifteen floors of intense mortification.

Very rarely I will step in to find the elevator girl chatting on the sparkly plastic phone (?!) that hangs on the elevator wall, and this lights up my day.

Current Music: Lulabox -- Ride On ♬

11 Responses:

  1. boggyb says:

    In the UK there's an old tunnel in London under the Thames (by the Cutty Sark) which has an attended lift at either end (as well as a spiral staircase). This is probably because they're rather large lifts, and get a fair ammount of commuter traffic.

    I remember finding it odd that there was someone at each end to control the lift. It's not like it's particularly prestigious (it's a free tunnel), and there's only two 'floors'.

  2. ammutbite says:

    In Rasputin off Market they make employees do the same thing minus magazines....

  3. tiff_seattle says:

    I worked at a hotel in New York that had an elevator man. He seemed to like the job. According to him it was a good, union job.

    • That's just right out of Brave New World. The Gamma, running the elevator, and thanking his lucky stars he wasn't one of those over-worked Betas or Alphas.

      I'm telling you, Huxley knew his shit.

      • quercus says:

        The lift operators in BNW were Epsilon sub-minus semi-morons (AFAIR, without Google). It was the Betas who were conditioned to be grateful for not being over-worked Alphas.

  4. thedimka says:

    In the states it is not really common these days for companies to have such people, but when I was in Japan I was shocked to see such things left and right.
    Even starbucks would have a line girl, who would be standing in the beginning of the line and politely show new people where to stand.
    Door people, elevetor people, store entrance people were everywhere

    In a way it is very stange, but on the other hand it creates jobs and make things more polite.

  5. justmealex says:

    Sounds like the guys in Oregon who pump your gas, no reason for this job to exist. At all. The creepy factor would probably force me to take the stairs.

    • strages says:

      In Oregon it's a means of curbing unemployment, not to mention it's actually against the law to pump your own gas there.

    • quercus says:

      Scotland (at least recently) still had attended petrol pumps, whereas they disappeared in England years ago.

      The difference is in the local legal systems. Driving off without paying for petrol in England is very clearly theft. In Scotland though it's less clear (thus harder to argue in court) -- If someone left a hosepipe full of petrol lying unattended on a garage forecourt, why shouldn't you simply help yourself? Simplest solution to this was to employ attendants.

  6. dossy says:

    Am I the only one who's thinkin' "Love In An Elevator" meets "Me Love You Long Time," here? Those newspapers probably aren't for reading, they're probably for wiping off, with.

    Even still ... *shudder*