Intelligent elevators are out of place on an unintelligent planet
By Nury Vittachi
They are spreading throughout our cities. They are set to appear soon in an office block near you. Someone may be assembling one in your building at this moment. They are a menace and your life will never be the same. I am talking about the Intelligent Elevator.
These things are following me around. Twice I have moved office, only to find them appearing between me and where I want to go.
They look pretty much like normal lifts until you get in and notice there’s no panel of numbers. They belong to a school of design known as “minimalist” (Latin for “utterly impractical”).
This is how they are supposed to work.
A herd of passengers meanders into the building. They notice a pad of numbers on the approach to the lift lobby. Each uses a foreleg to tap in a floor number. The Intelligent Elevator’s hidden collective brain does an instant calculation and flashes a letter of the alphabet at each passenger. He or she gets in the lift marked with that letter and arrives at the chosen floor 20 seconds earlier than usual because “efficiency has been maximized”.
That’s the plan. Here’s the reality.
Typical unintelligent passenger (i.e. me) staggers into lift lobby in a state of deep coma, walks right past the pad of numbers and get into the first elevator that comes.
Propelled only by residual signals from my brain stem, my arm reaches out to press the number for my floor, which is seven. That’s when I remember that there are no numbers. I watch, helpless, as I am whisked straight past my floor and up to floor 31, stopping several times on the way.
“Bother,” I say to myself. “I’ll get off at my floor on my way down.”
Several people get in at floor 31. Each one gets off at a different floor. No one stops at floor seven, and there are no buttons to enable me to pause there as we fly past it again.
We reach the ground floor. I leap out, race to the entry point of the lift lobby, find the key pad, press number seven, and then scamper back to the lifts.
A minute passes, during which time my mind has wandered to the ten things that men think about (a) early on the morning and (b) at all other times of the day: sex, food, football, food, sex, football, food, sex, football and sex.
I am soon deep in a fantasy in which I am scoring a goal with a burger in one hand and Scarlett Johansson in the other. An elevator arrives. Scarlett, the burger and I get into it.
I realize I have forgotten to look at the letters of the alphabet. This time it takes me to the 42nd floor.
Now multiply this by a dozen sleepy people in each elevator repeatedly making the same series of mistakes that I make.
The result is that the Intelligent Elevators that are supposed to take 20 seconds off our travelling times actually add minutes, if not hours or days to each journey. I had a visitor once who was so unnerved that he abandoned the appointment and now refuses to approach my building.
On the plus side, my mother-in-law no longer visits me at work.