The Elevator Trick

In High School I read this book where they talked about the trick to manually jamming an elevator if you needed to. The particular scene, set just after the Vietnam War, implied that ‘any soldier who wanted to be alone with a girl’ knew this technique.

Ingrained in my memory the process was this:
You press the button for the floor you want to go to, the moment the elevator starts moving you immediately hit the button on the floor you’re already on.

In the book it’s implied this messes with the mechanics and it jams.

If I’m alone in an elevator I’ve never been in before I’ll often try this technique. 15 years of elevators and I’ve yet to find one that it worked on. Possibly because the book was a work of fiction would probably be the first tip this wasn’t real. But it seemed such a random piece of trivia to include that I couldn’t help that think that just maybe there was truth to it.

This was especially prevalent in my law firm days, when I would be alone in a variety of different elevators. It was during this time that I formulated the theory that if this ‘technique’ worked at all, then logically it would only work on older elevators. Newer ones would surely have the glitch removed.

Luckily Canberra City circa 2003-2005 DID have some much older elevators, and it was in one of these that I got the closest to success.

Unluckily for my friend Cat, the one time I tried it, she was with me. If I tried to recall the full circumstances of it now I couldn’t, but I know we were in the same building that Fred Astaire Dance Studios was in (where, once upon a time, I did take dancing lessons) and at some point or another I spied the much older elevator.

While this quest was something I generally tried on my own, I felt Cat was such a good friend that if it did work and jam she would be okay with it… and hey – I’d have company!

So the ancient closed both it’s inner and outter doors. (It was old enough they moved very separately unlike most elevators where they are in sync) The elevator began to rise and instantly I hit the ground floor button.

To my excitement and surprise, something actually happened.

Two things actually.

The first was that the elevator jolted noticably, paused briefly then returned to the Ground Floor where the doors opened.

The second was that the instant the elevator jolted and paused ever so briefly, Cat freaked.

In retrospect, Cat did have a worry about things like elevators jamming. Probably something I should have taken into account and a quick succession of blows rained upon me, but I just laughed it off because I was too excited about my quest spanning years actually paying off.

Of course, with every year that goes by that chances of success, in Canberra at least, decrease dramatically as older elevators are rightfully replaced with newer models. Hell, the ones in the office where I currently work don’t even have floor buttons inside the elevator itself. You hit the button of the floor you want in the foyer and it tells you which elevator to go to take you there.

And I’m not totally sure why I want it to work.

There have been crappy days at work, particularly at the law firm, when I tried the technique in the lift in the hopes it would jam and get me out of work for the afternoon. A small prayer whispered to whatever deity happened to be listening as I hit the current floor button that this ill fated quest would finally pay off.

My potentially impossible quest continues. Last time I was in Sydney, I noticed the QVB had a fairly old elevator I could try it on. I just was in never in it alone to attempt it.

I should add: in recent years this quest evolved beyond simply trying old elevators to see if the trick would work. I tried finding contact details for the book’s author to find if there was any truth to the story. (‘Pulitzer’ by ‘L. Elizabeth Storm’ in case you’re wondering)

Some day I hope to find truth in it.

So if you ever see an FB status, a blogpost or hear a story about me getting trapped in a jammed elevator… you will now totally know it was all my own doing.

Also, though she probably doesn’t remember, I’m sorry to Cat too. Didn’t meant to freak you out. Promise the next time I find an old elevator I’ll wait until I’m on my own before attempting to jam it.

Unless I’m with a girl I’m dating. Then all bets are off.


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