Thursday, December 04, 2008

our continuing coverage of elevators

Today's Chronicle reported that "San Francisco police have all but concluded that pro-Israel activist Daniel Kliman got stuck in an elevator between floors last week, pried open the doors and accidentally fell nearly seven stories to his death."

So let that be a lesson to all of you: if you're stuck in the elevator, wait it out. Poor Nicholas White, trapped in a Manhattan elevator for 41 hours, tried repeatedly to pry the doors open. He was lucky the elevator didn't open in a way he could have fallen down the shaft.

And here's another piece of elevator lore, which I learned from the New Yorker: elevator experts say the close door button is meaningless. It doesn't actually do anything. The doors shut on a timer. If the door closes during or after you pressed it, it was accidental. (So why is that button there? It works for firefighters who have a key. Also, it gives elevator riders a sense of control they find comforting).


Summer said...

One of the students at my university tried to exit an elevator that was stuck halfway between floors, and the elevator started moving and killed him. I second your advice to wait it out, should you find yourself stuck in an elevator.

Vodalus said...

I call bullshit on the non-functional close button, unless one wants to argue that the timer is randomly set. It might be generally broken from regular use on older machines, but I refuse to believe that it is not tied to a "close" function.

Anonymous said...

Most elevator systems have the ability to disable the close button as part of their configuration. I have no idea how many facilities actually disable this function, or what their reasoning for disabling it could be. I've had some odd summer jobs in college. I also worked a while chopping big pieces of metal into small pieces of metal for a recycling foundry. I also had to mark the aluminum blooms with the dent codes prior to shipping. It was fun and noisy.

I know through empirical experimentation that the elevator button in my office building works. Without pressing the close button, the door closes 17 seconds after the last passenger enters the elevator. There's a light beam (three laser LEDs actually) that sense when someone enters (or exits) the elevator.

If the close door button is pressed, the door closes immediately.

Interestingly, if the open door button is pressed, the door will close after 30 seconds if no one enters the elevator. If someone does enter after pressing the open door button, the door will close 17 seconds after the person entered.

I read the same article you did, but not in the New Yorker. (Real New Yorkers never read that rag.) I spent a couple of hours the next day on the elevator. I don't know how my boss puts up with me. I probably would have been annoyed if one of my reports had done the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah -- you should have seen the look on the guy's face when I yelled at him not to " the fucking close door button!" In retrospect, probably not a good career move.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Goatsepants, your elevator may be made before 1990. Here's the quote from the Paumgartner article in the New Yorker: "elevator manufacturers have sought to trick the passengers into thinking they’re driving the conveyance. In most elevators, at least in any built or installed since the early nineties, the door-close button doesn’t work. It is there mainly to make you think it works. (It does work if, say, a fireman needs to take control. But you need a key, and a fire, to do that.) Once you know this, it can be illuminating to watch people compulsively press the door-close button. That the door eventually closes reinforces their belief in the button’s power. It’s a little like prayer."

Believe, Vodalus! Believe!

Anonymous said...

Dear Drunken sandwich maker,

You could be right. I've forgotten when this building was built, but it was originally owned by a large government contractor, and was built sometime shortly after I graduated high school, I think.

However, at one point, in Taiwan, our hotel of choice put in a back of new elevators. As I entered with my colleagues, I hit the wrong floor. I proceeded to bitch and moan about how elevator designers have no concept of UI design. Why isn't there an intuitive method of cancelling a floor button.

One of my geek cohorts said, "Yeah. Like if you tap it twice or hold it down for a lobng time it goes off.", and he proceeded to hold his thumb on the button for about five seconds and the light went off.

We looked at each other, so I pressed the other lit floor, it went off and the elevator came to a stop.

It was a Thyssenkrupp elevator. Us Germans can do anything!

Anonymous said...

We had a horrific accident a couple of years ago in the Houston Medical Center with a malfunctioning elevator.

Two things I've learned: Don't trust those closing doors to actually stop for you, and don't ever, ever try to exit between floors. Oh, and if you have tropical storm flooding, skip the elevator. Period.

I once tried to get on an elevator at EuroDisney which didn't open for me, (I was exhausted and with a toddler) and I was reprimanded severely in French by the other passenger.


Anonymous said...

One of my students was killed by an elevator in their house.

Their garage was underneath the house and was put in by the previous owner who was disabled.

The nanny had pulled in to the garage as was getting the baby out of the car seat. The boys ran ahead. The older boy got to the button first and pressed it.

When the doors open the younger boy jumped into the elevator to get the inside button - but the elevator wasn't there.

I always hang back and have a firm grasp on Loren and J when we approach elevators. I make sure the elevator is there before we enter.

Artoholic said...

long time lurker, first time commenter (quite obviously).

Elevator Experts are wrong. The close door buttons in my building are very useful. I haven't timed it, but if you don't press the close door button, you stand there with open doors for a good 15-20 seconds after the last person through the door. If you hit the Close Door button, the doors close almost instantly. Very handy.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Darling Artoholic, the answer is in the age of your elevator. Pray tell, was it manufactured before 1990? Then it will have a functioning close elevator. That was taken away from us, the elevator-riding public, around 1990. The close door key in a young, lively elevator will function only if the fireman's key is in use.

Thank you for unlurking!