• Saturday, August 30, 2014

Lift Thy Spirits

Shaer Reaz

We've all faced a harrowing lift ride at some point in our lives. Quite possibly you got stuck in one, faced the ignominious flatulence of a fellow passenger, had awkward conversations with that girl/guy you like, or you really needed to get to the lavatory in time but the lift was too damned slow. Whatever you've gone through, a lift ride can define an entire day.
If you think the people are what make a lift ride special, you'd be partly correct. Most of the blame goes onto the lift itself, though. Think about it. The size, shape, smell, texture; hell, even the damn buttons make a difference.
Everyone has seen the cage-style lifts in movies. A defining characteristic of early 20th century New York, these lifts can be what separates life and a gruesome death in a horror movie, depending on the movies you've seen them in. The analogue ticker showing what floor you are on can be a countdown to your death, or a surprise birthday party. Wonderful, no?  
Lifts in Dhaka are less classy, of course.

Walk into any non-private building, and you will be faced with giant, unkempt lifts stained with paan spittoons and random scraps of paper.
At least our shopping malls fare better. The capsules provide great views and the regular coffin-like lifts are not that bad to be in either. What ruins your lift experiences in these malls though, are the badly made advertisements playing on the small screen above the door. The gesture is nice on the mall management's part, giving us a little entertainment and taking away the awkwardness a little (because nothing bonds thirty strangers to each other like an ad featuring sweaty, opulent men doing bench presses in tights), but seriously, I don't think anyone wants to know where you can find male-only gyms or enchanted jewels in a mall like that.
Hospitals in Dhaka, especially the public ones, are wonders of inefficiency and are literally built on foundations of mismanagement. Their lifts will be frequently out of order, filled with everyone but the patients/doctors/nurses till there is no space left, and, more often than not, half the people in there will be forced to get off at the wrong floor because they need to go to the third floor, but the lift only goes to floors two, four, and six. Ask around and you'll hear stories of hospital lifts and their inadequacy. One time, a nurse pushing a man on a wheelchair out of the lift, banked too hard to the left to get out of the lift in time (before the doors closed in on them), but in the process the patient was thrown from the wheelchair and landed on the floor almost a foot away. The hospital will remain unnamed, because this being a public hospital, the nurse probably still has her job, and we're pretty sure the doors still close too quickly.

The best lifts are undoubtedly in the corporate offices. Smooth and quiet, sleek, shiny, feature laden lifts with indirect lighting carry men in suits up to their cubicles of monotony. You can cancel your call, a feature that is extremely useful if your boss entered the lift with you and is throwing inquisitive looks at you because you pressed “4” for the cafeteria, when you should be at your desk, working away.  
There will always be that lift, though. The one you have fond memories of operating as a child, screaming and reaching for the buttons as your mom holds you in her arms. If you stuck around long enough, that same lift will house you and that girl from the sixth floor; as you stand next to your childhood crush, your heart beats reverberating around the walls and possible conversation starters bounce back off the mirror in fear and apprehension. That same lift might carry you downstairs as you go off to a college abroad.
So many memories are made in these four by six feet moving boxes that you can't really stop to appreciate all of them. Take some time off and appreciate that lift.

Published: 12:00 am Thursday, January 23, 2014

Last modified: 8:42 pm Thursday, January 23, 2014

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