More Elevator Troubles

Loyal readers will recall the problems I reported with elevator door buttons some time ago. Well, I’m displeased to inform you that it doesn’t stop there.

The building I currently work in has five elevator banks (not including the service elevator), and I seem to be experiencing an occasional but recurring problem when I’m at the top and want to go down to the ground floor. You see, everything within all of the elevators is identical except that one uses a different arrangement for the floor number buttons.

Before I continue, I need to point something out: I’m a rote boy. That means I do things by rote. I’m not good at remembering things based on meaning, and I don’t always want to think repetitive tasks through before I do them. I just develop kinetic patterns and try to leave it at that.

Unfortunately that is a pretty lousy way to do things and I’m always getting in trouble because of it. For example, if you ask me to recite my postal code, I am stumped. I haven’t a clue. But put a pencil in my hand and I can write it down without even thinking.

It’s the same thing with phone numbers. Ask me my home phone number and I’ll blurt out random digits like a bingo caller yet I won’t even come close to getting my phone number right. But give me a telephone and I can call home easily by following the rote-learned pattern on the keypad.

OK, back to the elevators. In all five of the elevators in that building there are two rows of buttons. In elevators one through four, the button for the ground floor (“RC” here in Quebec) is below the rows of numbers, centered between them. But in elevator five, the “RC” button is at the bottom of the left row (i.e., not centered).

That’s a 4:1 ratio, so I use elevators one through four way more often than elevator five. When I’m going down, I step into the elevator and push the centered button at the bottom of the rows with barely a glance. I don’t have to bend down and try to read the numbers on the buttons (brushed metal on brushed metal in a dimly-lit elevator – who designed that?) because “RC” is thoughtfully positioned differently from the others.

But every now and then I board elevator five. The “RC” button is not in the middle, but I’m not thinking about that, I’m just automatically reaching for the button in the middle. And of course, there is one; the alarm bell. (Elevators one through four have a similar bell, but you don’t notice it because it’s below the centered “RC” button.)

BRRRRRIIIIINNNNNGGGGG! Then I have to explain to the crackling voice in the speaker that whoops, I hit the wrong button. How many times do you have to do this before the guard thinks you’re an idiot? (Probably not many.) But if you ask me, the idiot is the person who decided to use a different pattern of buttons in one out of five elevators!

Note that in the above illustrations, the “RC” button is already pressed, so it is illuminated. But when you get on the elevator it isn’t lit, so they all look the same when you’re not really looking.

The solution is actually quite easy. Since it would cost a fortune to re-design the panel to accomodate a centered “RC” (and the mysterious “D” button that only appears in elevator 5), they should instead spend about two bucks on a cheap metal non-functioning button that says “RC” and has an arrow pointing to the real “RC” button.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep bugging the security guard once or twice a week.

8 thoughts on “More Elevator Troubles

  1. why don’t you make a fake one with a stikcer, eventually they’ll get it, and replace it, no?

  2. I would not worry too much about it. When they put elevator number 6 back in public service, after tying it up to a series of renovation jobs of lower floors. I guess that a lot of people made the same mistake, since the button sequence is different than all the other elevators, I know I did make the mistake once.

    The security guard must be used to it by now; the problem is that they will wonder who is this idiot who keep making the same mistake over and over. What I suggest is that you carry a set of disguises in your bag, so whenever you push that bell button, so just slip one on et voilà, just a normal mistake, no regular idiot here.

    From Cairo with love…

  3. Take the stairss. Down for starters. That’ll eliminate the migrating RC button problem and allow you to keep your girlish figure! Yeah, yeah, it’s 14 Floors… blah-blah-blah.

  4. The solution — which would help solve a good part of the unemployment problem too — is to hire trained elevator operators.

    When you think about it, elevator button interfaces make absolutely no sense. Floors 5 and 6 are not next to each other, so why are the buttons that way? In a medium-rise building, surely a single row of buttons should suffice. And put the emergency buttons somewhere else!

    In a high-rise where that might not be practical, a number pad and enter key might work…or maybe a scrolling touchpad control (like the flick-scroll on an iPhone or iPod Touch) to allow you to scroll to floor X and select it.

    In some more modern elevators controls are reduced to a bare minimum – for security reasons you use a keytag that, once scanned, automatically sends you to “your” floor, and the only remaining buttons are for common or public floors.

  5. Since the ground floor or exit floor is most peoples destination half the time, I think they should make it twice the size. It doesn’t make sense to me why you must look for it every time. It should be like a bit “Easy” button.

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