x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

The ups and downs of lifts

There's one major factor most people overlook, one that casts something of a dark shadow on every aspect of working high up: the lifts.

'You're on the 25th floor, how nice," one of my friends recently exclaimed, as I described my new working situation. Indeed, when it comes to offices, height is apparently something to be craved; the further you are from the ground, apparently the better. I will admit that, from way up here amid the smog, there is a rather grand view (although not today, the weather's unusually rubbish), and a fine opportunity to peer down with lofty superiority on those inferior fools forced to work on single-digit floors. But there's one major factor most people overlook, one that casts something of a dark shadow on every aspect of working high up: the lifts.

It's basic logic. The higher you go, the longer you have to spend in an elevator. And, as everyone knows, elevators are specifically designed to nullify instantly several millennia of human civilisation, a dreary grey box that lobotomises its occupants upon entry. And standing inside one for a 25-floor journey, at least twice a day, is a rollercoaster ride of unstoppable, immeasurable tedium.

Firstly, there's the time taken. Pressing the shiny "25" button doesn't mean it'll be a smooth ride all the way up, oh no. Each trip is likely to be punctuated with stops from the first floor roughly up to the 24th. One journey can take hours.

Then there's the waiting time, as well. I've only been in the office for two weeks and estimate I've already spent around six years bashing lift buttons in the hope that it would somehow make it arrive earlier. Sometimes I wonder whether it's even worth leaving work at all. There are people up here who - judging by their clothes and stubble - haven't been home in months, no doubt having given up in the ongoing elevator war.

It would be OK if lifts were fun-time, laugh-a-minute party rooms. But they're not. A plank of wood is more entertaining. Once inside, there are very few acceptable options available. You can join the masses and stare; either down, ahead or - the connoisseur's choice - upwards at the blinking screen displaying the current floor number. You can look at your phone, perhaps scrolling through old messages or just pretending that you've got any at all. It's deadly. On a recent journey, a fellow lift-goer started polishing the wall. Granted, he was sporting blue overalls and carrying a mop and bucket, but I'm willing to bet it was simply because he didn't have a mobile to play with.

Those mid-natter when entering the elevator continue talking only at their own risk. Having eavesdropped on numerous mid-lift chats, I've come to the depressing conclusion that conversations become 300 per cent more dreary when confined to those four small walls. Go on, just try listening next time; you'll start weeping tears of boredom in seconds.

My only advice is to do the exact opposite of acceptability: look people right in the eye. Go on, glare at them. All of them. Eventually, they'll be so terrified that they'll get off at the next stop, giving you a nice empty lift in which you can play with your phone. Or stare at the numbers.