Homage to an Elevator

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It was literally shitty.

At least, so goes a sign I saw in it once. I didn’t see the pile of human feces. It was gone. A good samaritan had notified the live-in building caretakers who had no excuse not to clean it up immediately, and that samaritan also made a sign reminding us of apartment building etiquette. It’s a brilliant sign. It’s a memory I hold dear.rs3454

I didn’t see that specific dump, but there’s a lot to remember about the different-context-of-the-word dump that the elevator was. The building was 100 years old when I moved in. The elevator was probably maintained or upgraded, but still its same core self. Common folklore, whether true or not, said it was the oldest original still-functioning elevator in the city. It had obviously been through a lot. The rubbery texture of the paint was a sure sign that coats had been coated over other coats ad nauseum. The carpeting must’ve been changed several times, say, every 10 cases of human waste taking place there. Nah, probably 20. Or 50. There were several instances of vomit stains in the two years I lived in this building, and when it smelled like piss it wasn’t clear whether somebody urinated there or if it was just recently occupied by someone who carried the scent themselves.

Yes, I lived in this place for two years. This should hint to you that I don’t live there anymore. I’ve grown quite above it, switching from a one bedroom apartment in a downtown character building to a…larger one bedroom apartment in a downtown character building but with a better view and no elevator. My current building doesn’t need one. It doesn’t meet the threshold of five storeys that the last one did. I lived on the fourth. I tried to promise to myself that I would walk up the stairwell circling the walls outside the elevator shaft unless I was carrying something very heavy. I failed on that promise many times. It was hard walking up that stairwell carrying anything heavier than my own fat ass, and it made me dizzy to circle so much. So I frequently saw this elevator’s various states of disrepair. Carpet was not only soiled but torn up. The metal bars on the walls were distorted. People vandalized the pus-coloured walls. I wonder not if, but how many times people fucked in that lift during my residency in that building.

It wasn’t just how it was treated. With it being as old as it was, it was how it was built. It wasn’t classic like you see in period movies that have the accordion doors, or whatever the fuck you call them, but you did have to ensure the prison cell type door was shut, manually, before the inner door would automatically close and take you to your destination. It could only stop one floor at a time, which was useful for avoiding the neighbours who would degrade the territory but not so useful for getting to know the good neighbours through this iconic place of small talk. Those are both pretty good things to have in an elevator, actually. At least there are those to offset all that was horrible.

I see elevators malfunction in my office building all the time, sometimes all three. I have seen elevator repair people standing in broken elevators that are stuck about a foot and a half above the floor they should be actually on jump up and down aggressively trying to get the damn thing to move. I never had to see that with the outhouse elevator. I guess they don’t build them like they used to. These early elevator models must’ve been hand-crafted works of art…but I think this one was more along the lines of Medieval paintings instead of Renaissance sculptures.

I live virtually across the street from this old haunt of mine, and I’m sure if I walked in behind somebody who had keys they would hold the door for me without any suspicion. Then I could see what state this elevator is in now. But I’m scared. I don’t want to go in there and see it replaced. I don’t want to see it redone in an attempt to make this building as classy as it was in its heyday. That’s not why they call old apartment blocks “character buildings” – at least not in this town. Dare I go to see her again? Elevators don’t have Facebook profiles you can stalk to see if they’ve gotten uglier since you left them.

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