Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Cometh the lift, cometh the hour

What would appear to be a substantial part of Dubai's community appears to believe that, if you are on the ground floor, you call a lift by pressing the down arrow. This is, if you stop to think about it, quite logical. If you are on the ground floor and the building is three stories high (as is our office building), then the lift is three times more likely to be up than down. So you press down to call it down.


In life's game of chance, of course, it is always possible that the lift is in the basement. In which case, pressing the up button will improve the odds significantly. Now you have supplemented your three in four chance of bringing the lift to you with a one in four chance of bringing it up. It's a dead cert that the lift is in the bag!

This is the reason why I often find the lift door opening in the basement, revealing a sea of puzzled faces. "Why?" They seem to be saying, "Why are we here?"

A question that I tend to relate to. Particularly when the lift arrives too full to accommodate one slightly irascible addition. I even, on one occasion when overdue leave, put the question to the assembled company. I am ashamed to admit I shouted it. But they just stared silently and large-eyed back at me until the doors closed and took them away.

But this is not the end of the story. Because lifts are not the smartest of devices. A lift, when it has been called to go down using the down button and then arrives at the basement, not unnaturally believes that it has fulfilled its purpose in life. And so whatever floor you have selected before the lift arrived at the basement is therefore cancelled, waiting for the next satisfied customer to select a floor. This often means that travelling, say, to the third floor from the basement, the people who were already in the lift when it arrived in the basement end up missing their intended floor on the way up, too. I am sure there are people who have spent the whole day in the lift, wondering how come their floor never seems to appear.

When you add to this the fatal attraction of the comb, you start to understand how it's so hard to get a lift in so many of Dubai's buildings.

Many lifts have mirrored back walls. And that would be fine except for the fact that many people can't look at a mirror for more than a few milliseconds without suffering from the sudden urge to whip a comb out of their back pockets and tidy their coiffure. This urge is deeply seated at a Pavlovian, even genetic level and far stronger than the urge to select a destination. I once shared a lift with a gentleman who noticed a spot and subsequently happily went about squeezing it, to the intense discomfort of those around him.

A colleague cracked some time ago and posted 'How to use a lift' posters next to all the lifts in the building. This was a noble, if ultimately futile, gesture. Any fule no that you press 'down' to call the lift down to you, after all.

They'd better have upwards of 50 lifts in the Burj Dubai. You could be stuck for days waiting for a lift otherwise...

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