My right ear is bunged up at the moment. I went to see the doctor today (it seems minor, but with a long journey to the US at the weekend, I want to eliminate as much physical infirmity as possible) and as part of the diagnosis, he pointed out that I lived on the 21st floor of my building and so I should notice pressure changes when I go up and down in the lift.
I don’t think he realised that I live in an HDB block, rather than a futuristic condominium where the lifts whizz up and down at a hundred miles an hour. In my HDB, the lifts are ponderous and careful, and generally stop at every third floor.
They don’t stop at every floor, because to be economic the lift only has doors every third floor. I suppose this should contribute in some small way to residents’ fitness, as the people on floors that aren’t multiples of three will always have to walk up or down at least one flight of stairs to get to their flat.
But they do stop at every floor that they can, because some wise-ass always seems to be pressing the buttons needlessly.
I think part of it is scepticism in the functioning of the lift buttons. We live on the top floor, but innumerable times I’ll be waiting for a lift and it will eventually arrive, with a person in it. Who will not get out, but accompany me down an awkward multiple of three floors, until the lift comes to a halt and the doors open, and the person doesn’t get out, and then the doors close, and the lift descends again. I surmise that on the floors between the ground and 21st floor, people hit both the up and down buttons and get in whatever lift comes first, as if it was more important to be in a lift than to be in a lift that was going in the correct direction. Or maybe they just think that the buttons and the lift interact in a wholly random way, so there’s no point relying on the down button to call a lift that is going downwards.
This irritates me profoundly. I know it shouldn’t, because there’s only a small delay to my journey downwards, but if they’d only press the button to call the lift for the direction they want to go in, we’d all save the time it takes for the doors to needlessly open and close again. Perhaps it’s not the waste of time I object to. Perhaps it’s the slightly bovine stare of irritation I receive when I get in the lift, as though it were entirely my fault that the lift took them up to the 21st floor, rather than where they wanted to go. Does that imply a general belief that I have magical powers that I use solely to obstruct the movement of people on the other floors, by summoning lifts to my 21st storey eyrie when they really want to go down?
If I were to think about it, maybe I’d also get offended that people don’t want to get in the same lift as me. There are three lifts in our block, and occasionally I’ll call the lift and there will be other people waiting to ascend. I’ll get into the lift, and they’ll look at me, and then they won’t get into the lift with me. Why is this? Is it because they’ve heard that Europeans are all massively overweight, so it’s impossible that they’ll be able to fit into the same lift as me? (This never happens when there’s me, the wife and the child in her stroller, because instead everyone tries to get into the lift regardless of available space.) Or is it the bad press about violent Caucasians fighting people in bars / taxi queues / building sites / while riding bicycles, which makes them think it’s not safe to be alone in an enclosed space with people like me?
I suppose I could stop and ask them, but that would delay my ascent. So I usually hold the door open button for a few seconds, then give up, and make my way upwards. Perhaps in future I should stop, get out of the lift again and chaperone them in, and then wait while the lift goes skyward and then descends again, quite empty, before getting in. I only want to be polite.
As for my ears, I went over to an office visited clients on the thirty-somethingth floor today, and they have the kind of snazzy computerised lifts that do shoot up and down like a banker’s popularity around bonus season. And on the way down, my right ear went all funny. So perhaps I should go back to the doctor with this to aid in the decision about future treatment.