For roughly 1,680 mornings, I have boarded one of six elevators to take me to the 36th floor of a center city Philadelphia office building. At the end of the workday, I board one of those same elevators and return to the building's lobby where I head out the the train station and eventually make my way home.
This morning started the same way as those previous 1,680. I arrived at the elevator lobby and pressed the "up" button — the only option in the lobby. As I waited, a few people gathered behind me. There were a couple of co-workers that I recognized mixed among the other people who work on floors occupied by other businesses. I gave a "Good Morning" nod to those I knew, just as a melodic "ding" split the air announcing an elevator's arrival. Ever the old-school gentleman, I allowed the waiting women to enter the car first. Then, I stepped in and waved my swipe card across the smoked-glass panel situated below the floor number buttons. This grants access to floors that are directly off-limits to the general public. I selected my floor and the other occupants did the same. The doors closed and the car hesitated. Then, it jerked. Then, it dropped slightly and shook. Several riders let out an audible gasp. Others gripped tense fingers into whatever they were holding — bags, backpacks, insulated cups of steaming coffee. The cramped car seemed to get even smaller and more confining as it jostled up and down a few times before the familiar automated voice announced "First Floor" and the doors slid open. The group exited en masse and emitted a collective sigh of relief. Someone pressed the call button in the lobby and we all eyed the offending doors from which we just egressed, warning newly-arriving passengers to avoid that elevator.
Another elevator arrived with the same friendly "ding" as the first one. With mild trepidation, we entered the new elevator car much like we did the first one. Satisfied with the apparent safety, everyone made their respective floor selections and the elevator doors slid closed.
And it happened again.
The elevator car shivered and dropped. This time, instead of gasps, several startled passengers uttered frightened cries. One woman shrieked, "Jesus Christ!," and clutched her chest, her eyes wide with terror. After a couple more shimmies, the doors opened and the passengers broke for freedom, nearly trampling each other while trying to remain civil. The call button was pressed again and the group waited with apprehension for a third — hopefully functioning — elevator.
The elevator arrived and the same group of shock-weary passengers entered — slowly, deliberately, suspiciously. The doors closed. We felt the elevator rise in a normal fashion, the way it usually moves. I spoke up, breaking the taut silence.
"Y'know," I began, smiling, "people in Disney World pay a hundred dollars a day to ride in an elevator that does that."
My attempt at levity was rewarded with a few nervous giggles.
Eh... I'll take what I can get.