Friday, April 25, 2008

Elevator Stories

So everyone is linking to this long and fascinating story about elevators. I liked the passage on elevator etiquette:
Passengers seem to know instinctively how to arrange themselves in an elevator. Two strangers will gravitate to the back corners, a third will stand by the door, at an isosceles remove, until a fourth comes in, at which point passengers three and four will spread toward the front corners, making room, in the center, for a fifth, and so on, like the dots on a die. With each additional passenger, the bodies shift, slotting into the open spaces. The goal, of course, is to maintain (but not too conspicuously) maximum distance and to counteract unwanted intimacies—a code familiar (to half the population) from the urinal bank and (to them and all the rest) from the subway. One should face front. Look up, down, or, if you must, straight ahead. Mirrors compound the unease. Generally, no one should speak a word to anyone else in an elevator. Most people make allowances for the continuation of generic small talk already under way, or, in residential buildings, for neighborly amenities.
Reminds me of two things:

1. The great Candid Camera stunt where people stood facing backwards on an elevator (and others not in on the stunt turned to face backwards too).

2. This marvelous anecdote about Alfred Hitchcock:
My own favorite memory of Hitchcock comes from an incident at the St. Regis Hotel in New York in 1964. After some frozen daiquiris had left me a bit tipsy and Hitch quite red-faced and cheerful, we got on the elevator at the 25th floor and rode in silence to the 19th, where, when three people dressed for the evening entered, he suddenly turned to me and said, ''Well, it was quite shocking, I must say there was blood everywhere!'' I was confused, thinking that because of the daiquiris I'd missed something, but he just went right on: ''There was a stream of blood coming from his ear and another from his mouth.'' Of course, everyone in the elevator had recognized him but no one looked over. Two more people from the 19th floor entered as he continued: ''Of course, there was a huge pool of blood on the floor and his clothes were splattered with it. Oh! It was a horrible mess. Well, you can imagine . . . '' It felt as if no one in the elevator, including me, was breathing. He now glanced at me, I nodded dumbly, and he resumed: ''Blood all around! Well, I looked at the poor fellow and I said, 'Good God, man, what's happened to you?'' And then, just as the elevator doors opened onto the lobby, Hitchcock said, ''And do you know what he told me?'' and paused. With reluctance, the passengers now all moved out of the elevator and looked anxiously at the director as we passed them in silence. After a few foggy moments, I asked, ''So what did he say?'' And Hitch smiled beatifically and answered, ''Oh, nothing -- that's just my elevator story.''


Blogger "Q" the Enchanter said...

That Hitchcock story is the most amusing thing I've heard since at least the last time I was on an elevator with Hitchcock.

10:18 AM  

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