Illustration for article titled I’m No Expert, But Elevators Should Do Other Thingsem/em

I’m not the kind of person who likes to speak out of turn, but when I see something that is wrong, I can’t just stay silent—I have to address it. It may not feel comfortable, but in order to start a dialogue, someone has to be the one to begin the conversation. So this is what I believe, all cards on the table: If you ask me, elevators should do other things.

Look, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no elevator expert. I didn’t grow up studying physics or engineering—elevators are not my world. But to me it’s clear as day that elevators should at least have a bench for the elderly or a little interactive trivia screen or something, and I don’t think I’m alone in that belief.


Obviously, elevators are complex machines, and the average person can’t claim to know everything about how they work or what they do. However, anyone can see that there’s a huge gap between the number of things elevators do right now and the number of things they could be doing. For instance, trains, buses, and subways all have loops you are allowed to hold on to, and yet currently, elevators have no form of loop at all. It’s a troubling discrepancy. It’s also worth noting that elevators are essentially tiny rooms, so at best they should probably have multiple phone chargers and at the very least you should be able to expect a small trash can. Inexplicably, elevators offer neither of these conveniences.

What’s particularly baffling is the many features elevators currently have that never get used and could be easily replaced with something more practical. Like, what’s the deal with the button that calls the fire department? Never once have I seen anyone use this button, and even if there were an emergency situation that merited calling the fire department, I imagine most people would just call them on their cell phones, as cell phones seem like a much safer bet than a button that goes years at a time without being pressed. Why not replace that button with something pragmatic, like a button that triggers a blast of loud, overpowering white noise to preempt unwanted small talk with chatty strangers, or a button that activates different mood-lighting settings, like “tranquil morning” or “morning safari.” Seems like a no-brainer.

Again, I do not claim to design or maintain elevators, so everything I say should be taken with a grain of salt, but it only seems logical that if elevators can go up and down big tall buildings, they should also be going back and forth through long flat buildings. It just makes sense. And if elevators have the power to haul thousand-pound passenger loads up and down all day long without issue, then perhaps we could utilize them for other physically demanding tasks, such as crushing olives to make olive oil or pressing coal to make diamonds. That way, the elevators would be generating a useful byproduct as well as passive income—a win-win, if you ask me.

And while perhaps not as practical, let’s not overlook the many untapped entertainment possibilities of elevators. To my untrained eye, it feels like we’re wasting a huge opportunity by not having a video screen on elevator walls that streams one of those live zoo feeds where you watch bears playing or eggs hatching in a nest. Or maybe there could be some sort of fun activity for riders to do. Like, maybe you put a big heavy crank in the middle that people have to work together to turn, or maybe there’s some sort of Mario Party-style game where everyone has to mash a button really fast to make little digital avatars race on a screen, and whoever mashes their button the fastest is the winner. Speaking of which, it seems like it’d be a big morale booster if every elevator ride ended with a passenger being declared the winner. It’s honestly frustrating that no system for determining winners exists yet.


Also: Call me naïve, but I believe it’s possible to live in a world where you can get on an elevator and when you get off that same elevator moments later, you have washed your hands.

I want to make it clear that I am not an enemy of elevators. If anything, I am their biggest fan. And if someone like me, who knows virtually nothing about elevators, can see all this potential for what they can be, I know the rest of the world can, too.


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