Going up

I saw Kottke’s link to an NYT a New Yorker article about a man trapped in an elevator, and it sounded pretty interesting. So I clicked through and started reading. The article began the story, then took a break to talk about the history of elevators. I only noticed the scroll bar after a few paragraphs; there was a long way to go – surely the entire page couldn’t be about elevators? A little part of my brain wondered how much I’d have to wade through to find out what happened to this unfortunate man.

Turns out, elevators = really interesting. Seriously.

Fortune carries a “probable stop” table, which applies probability to the vexation that boils up when each passenger presses a button for a different floor. If there are ten people in an elevator that serves ten floors, it will likely make 6.5 stops. Ten people, thirty floors: 9.5 stops. (The table does not account for the exasperating phantom stop, when no one gets on or off.) Other factors are door open and close time, loading and unloading time, acceleration rate, and deceleration rate, which must be swift but gentle. You hear that interfloor traffic kills—something to mutter, perhaps, when a co-worker boards the elevator to travel one flight, especially if that co-worker is planning, at day’s end, to spend half an hour on a StairMaster. It’s also disastrous to have a cafeteria on anything but the ground floor, or one floor above or below it, accessible via escalator.

The amount of personal space preferred in different cultures, the myth of the close-door button1 and mimes all crop up. Worth a read.

If you make it 2/3 of the way without getting up for a drink, I’ll be impressed.

  1. I mention this for one person in particular []