What. The. Fuck. Is. Going. On. With. Elevators. These. Days.
Am I alone here? I can’t be the only injured person who gets mangled every other time that I step onto one of these contraptions. Please, tell me that you’re with me. Because we need a revolution.
Don’t look for some kind of a deeper metaphor or meaning here. I’m being literal—elevators suck. I’m constantly waiting for them in places where taking stairs isn’t an option, missing them, and getting aggravated on them. At least five times in the past month, I have had the door on one of these Darth elevators close too soon, leading to a painful or in one case seriously excruciating smashing of my knee and elbow.
Surely, I thought, some people must be dying on these things. And I was right.
According to a study from 2006 by the Center to Protect Workers’ Rights, “Incidents involving elevators and escalators kill about 30 and seriously injure about 17,000 people each year in the United States, according to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.” Furthermore, “Elevators cause almost 90 percent of the deaths and 60 percent of serious injuries,” with “injuries to people working on or near elevators—including those installing, repairing, and maintaining elevators, and working in or near elevator shafts—accounting for 14 (almost half) of the annual deaths.”
That may be a dated assessment, but I’m sure it still applies, since elevators haven’t changed too much in several generations. This is a technology that’s been around for thousands of years. Even if we’re only talking about electric elevators, the human race has been building, using, and relying on them for more than a century, so why do they still come up short? Why the hell are people working on self-driving cars when we can’t get the door to remain open on a lift for long enough to wheel a bag cart through the door? Thousands have been maimed! And those are only the elevators that are in service. Just wait until an article I’m dropping next year about disability rights advocates and their struggle with broken MBTA facilities.
I wrote this column on my cell phone during a reluctant recent trip to a mall on the North Shore, where I should have just taken the escalator (I have no beef with them). Since I don’t live or work in a high rise, this pet peeve tends to irk me in the winter, when I spend a lot of time traversing Back Bay through the Pru and wind up in tall buildings more than usual.
Finally, and I promise not to overthink this (out loud or in print, at least), maybe the problem is that there isn’t a startup for elevators. There aren’t enough minds at MIT trying to make these killer guillotines a little safer. It’s probably not sexy enough for those heralded angel investors. I’m sure there is a charlatan or two trying to hock a Star Trek-type transporter to some rube selectmen in a smaller city who were sold the second that the sales guy showed them a selfie he took with Elon Musk on a spaceship, but what we really need is something brilliant and basic. Like a “door open” button that actually works.
That’s my elevator pitch.
CHRIS FARAONE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF