Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Which Way is Up?

I work in an office building. There are three levels of parking deck in my building, labeled P1, P2 and P3, with P1 being the highest level and P3 being down in the bowels of... well... "in the bowels" is probably descriptive enough, if you think about it.

In the elevator lobbies of this building, beside each elevator door, there is a white light indicating that the arriving elevator is going "up" above a red light indicating that the elevator is going "down". Furthermore, there is a little bell that dings once if the elevator is going up an twice if the elevator is going down.

That's three clues that people waiting for an elevator get when it arrives: the top or bottom light, the color of the light, and the audible signal. Even if one is color blind and deaf, one should still be able to figure out which way the elevator is going.

Despite this abundance of information, approximately once a week the elevator stops on a floor and some awareness-impaired person will hold the doors open, stand in the middle of the doorway inconveniencing an elevator full of people, and in wild-eyed fashion look back and forth between the people in the elevator and the lights beside the door while saying, "Which way is this elevator going? Going up? I want to go up. Is this elevator going up? Up? Fred, which way is this elevator going?" No doubt these are the same people who wait until they're at the counter at Ben & Jerry's before they look up at the menu board and say, "Ummmmmm....". The odd thing is that no matter which way the elevator is going and which way they want to go, they inevitably get on the elevator anyway, usually with a shrug, a sheepish grin, and some comment along the lines of, "Well I guess I'll just take a ride."

Apparently these people have a lot of time to kill, and they assume that everyone else does, too.

A fish about to bite a hook has a higher situational awareness quotient than these people.

A while back, I was heading down to my car on P1. The elevator stopped on the way down and two of America's finest were standing there. I could tell immediately that they were America's finest by the haircuts and the look of utter condescending disdain they gave me. The uniforms were a clue, too. They held the door open until the alarm began to sound while they were processing the incredibly complex concept of the direction of the elevator. Since in the long run it didn't matter, they eventually decided that they'd ride this elevator even if it was going to some other dimension. After they got on, they stared at the buttons on the control panel as if they were the operating controls of the space shuttle, and made the quantum leap to the next phase of their lives.

"Where did I park? Am I on P1? P2? I think I'm on P2. Pretty sure I parked on P2. Usually I'm on P1 but I think I had to go to P2 today. Yeah, P2".

One of them pressed P2. I felt very fortunate that the elevator didn't have a self-destruct button.

So, okay, we rode the elevators down to the parking decks, and the two gentlemen got off the elevator.

With me.

On P1.

I suppose you can imagine the conversation at this point. "Where's my car? Where are we? Is this P2? My car's on P2. Wait... this is P1! Let's just take the stairs."

Given the effort that it took the two of them just to get out of the building, I shudder to think what happened after that.

If you're driving around northern Virginia and you see two hungry, bearded, uniformed gentleman driving a car while looking wildly about for their final destination, please be kind. They're fated to wander the earth and never arrive.

Please just don't direct them back to my building.

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