Sunday, February 28, 2010

Elevators from Hell

Before I launch my light-hearted rant about elevator vagaries, I better give some context for this story. A week ago my son was hit by a car when riding his bike. His shoulder was seriously damaged and he underwent seven hours of surgery that night. He now has donated bone and a metal plate in his shoulder. I am happy to say that every day he is stronger and we expect him to be discharged for rehabilitation soon. He has been at the University of Alberta Hospital and the care and professionalism of the staff is top-notch. I have less kind words for the elevators.

There's a bank of four of them, the glass "north glass elevators" centrally located within the complex. Those that are in operation hum quietly with seeming efficiency, weights and cables bobbing up and down industriously, the overhead arrows pinging their arrival.

On the main level is a small crowd of visitors. It takes a few minutes for the newcomer (me) to realize that only one of the four elevators is working. The two to the east are "resting" with no explanation. The west elevator is stuck in the parkade with a blinking "P". The remaining elevator passes the main floor to take care of the mysterious parkade, then skips us altogether on it's return. Some of my fellow lobby waiters curse softly. Others exclaim loudly. There is irritation and impatience on all our faces. A small joke is murmured to break the tension. The hospital wants us to make healthy choices; where are the stairs?

A staffer pops by and presses both up and down button. She comments on passing that we will have a better chance of catching one that way.

When the elevator finally arrives, we pile in, arranging ourselves carefully, considering the impairment of some of our riders. The crowd follows a tacit courtesy, to make the ride more bearable. We're almost there.

Later on in the day, one of the northeaseast elevators is pressed in to service. It buzzes constantly through it's trip.

Urban dwellers must have a sixth sense how long it should take to wait for an elevator, for a building seven stories high. The wait at the "north bank" is interminable.

Not a good start for visiting family and friends already stressed and uncertain. I'll emphasize again that the staff are unfailingly helpful and polite. It's the elevators I hate.

For an organization as competent as the University of Alberta Hospital, the elevators are an anomaly. I bet they were an expensive purchase, highly touted. It would take a brave bureaucrat indeed to admit to their failure and to expend even more to make it right.