Monday, 24 September 2007

Can't you get an elevator to work in this country?

England is an anti-elevator zone. It's not that England doesn't have them, it's just that no one can be bothered to make them work.

At about half of the places I've gone (or called ahead to inquire), the elevators don't work (they're called lifts here). Which is fine if you don't have mobility issues, but really sucks if you do. The museum at Reading Town Hall, the library, a museum at Oxford. No dice. Outta luck. It sucks to be you. People were nicer about it than that, but basically, the elevators don't work and break down so often that many places just put up an "out of order" sign and call it a day. Or an eternity. I've been told more than once that repairmen do service the elevators, but can't seem to keep them running.

And some places should put up a sign that don't. I went to TK Maxx today (the UK version of TJ Maxx, only pricier). I hesitated before taking the elevator down to the lower floor as thoughts of UK being the Bermuda triangle of elevators blazed through my mind -- you go in but you might not come out. But as there was no "out of order" sign posted and the elevator came when summoned, I got in. Bad idea.

When I tried to go back up in the elevator, it wouldn't come. After about 8 minutes of sitting there and pushing the button (I'd only waited that long because others waiting for the elevator when I came down said it took forever), a woman came by and said she'd overheard employees upstairs say they were closing the elevator because it got stuck. Which was bad news for me, as the only other way out was the escalator. Did I mention I was on my mobility scooter? That ain't going up no escalator. And while my knees are gradually improving and I could actually get off it and make may way up the escalator on foot and call a cab to get home, it would mean abandoning my scooter. Not gonna happen. I would've stubbornly sat there until either they found a way to carry my scooter upstairs or the local newspaper came (they report on just about anything, and people getting the shaft is a favorite).

So an employee came and helped by going upstairs via the escalator and then coming down in the elevator. It seems the elevator will let you summon it from upstairs, but not from downstairs. Which is a horrible thing if you *need* the elevator. Me on my mobility scooter or someone in a wheelchair would be trapped. Mothers with strollers (pushchairs as they're called here) would have a difficult time on an escalator, but could manage if they weren't laden with too many bags or more than one child.

I would note the employees were very helpful once they realized I was stuck downstairs with no way to get on the elevator (though one employee must have seen me sitting waiting for the elevator and he just went off, probably hoping someone else would deal with the problem). But the store and others with a similar problem really need to fix the elevator to avoid a major situation before someone gets trapped on a floor or trapped inside the elevator. Unfortunately, it seems it's easier to just close the elevator, thus making the store or museum unusable for the disabled, then it is to fix the problem.

I don't know why so many places have faulty elevators, but I suspect it comes down to dosh (that's cash to you non-Brits). They could cheaply give a broken elevator some tweaking that will keep it running for a day or two, or they could spend the cash to replace some parts and actually fix the problem. Guess which solution seems to win most often?


  1. So is it better in America? Do the elevators work all the time over there?

    Great blog btw.

  2. Sure, elevators break down in the U.S. But I've never seen it at this level, where so many seem to be down and apparently just left out of service. I don't know why that is, as many of the screwy elevators I've encountered are not in this country's beautiful old buildings -- I could understand if you told me adding a lift to a building designed centuries ago might be tricky.

    And thanks for the comment! :)

    But I will admit that while living in the States before my knee problems started, I probably wouldn't have noticed if an elevator didn't work because I usually took the stairs. And now that I think of it, many places with an elevator had at least two in service, side by side. Once in awhile one would be down, but there was always one that worked. Maybe it has to do with more tall buildings in the U.S. than here, which makes the elevator more vital -- lots of people that can climb stairs will use the elevator if it's several flights, and it would cause an uproar if the elevators went down.


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