The Rider

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Grandchildren are the best! If you have any doubt about that just ask Meme, Cheryl Galipeau-Lettre. She has so much fun with her granddaughters it almost makes me jealous. I eagerly await the time when, like Cheryl, my granddaughters will be learning how to make and bake cookies with their Memas or eating ice cream with their Papa.

In the meantime, I worry about my granddaughters over something that they have absolutely no concern with what-so-ever, elevators! Sadie (2 years old) and Ellie (1 years old) are no strangers to elevators, which are a part of their everyday life. They live in a condominium on the 3rd Floor and elevators are everywhere!

So, here is the thing. I do not like elevators. Never had much faith in them in spite of the fact that they are a very useful invention that, almost always, function efficiently and properly and are used by millions and millions of people on a daily basis for one purpose or another. The fault with elevators lies mainly with the operator, that would be me, in this particular case.

Whenever I take the girls for a walk, accessing an elevator is part of the plan as we need to use them for going and coming. The elevator ride to the world beyond begins with a foot race to the elevator doors which are located several apartments down the hall. Ellie is off like a shot, streaking down the hall. Normally it would be a comical sight to behold watching those little legs moving at Warp Speed, but remember where she is headed. Sadie is right there with her! Fear sets in! I would go so far as to mention panic!

What if they reach and get inside the elevator before I get there? Could they be crushed by the closing doors? Would they be trapped in the elevator alone with a criminal element? Would they be transported to an alien floor, all alone? What would you do? What would Meme do?

As it happens I always arrive at the elevator doors in the nick of time. "Push the button Sadie", I say, and she does. Sometimes I will lift Ellie up so she can have a turn pressing the button to call the elevator. So far so good. The elevator has arrived. Then, as if on cue, we all rush the door to be the first into the elevator!

Once in the elevator, it's a new ball game! It did not take me long to discover that little girls love buttons, especially push-buttons that are lighted. Sadie and Ellie rush for the panel with all the buttons. Four hands and twenty fingers eager to push this, touch that and open the mystery door! Then it turns into a competition. Who can touch, press or poke the most buttons? All the time this is going on, I attempt to coral the girls very gently in order to prevent any elevator mishaps! Sadie is tall enough to reach the top floor button. They both can reach the Emergency Stop button, the phone button, the Alarm button.

Finally, the correct button has been pushed and there have been no alarms sounding, nor has there been a voice on the speaker asking: "Is everything alright?" We arrive at the floor of our choosing, the door slides open and we are released into the world. Sadie tries to run back in but I have her in my clutches just in time! The door closes and we three stand safely in the hall ready to continue our adventure. Following the elevator ride. I take each child's hand (or attempt to) and we head for the outside playground. I have regained my composure knowing that the same scene will be repeated a few more times during the day.

Why are elevators such a nemisis for me? I remember when, as a young man living in Bennington and working for an insurance company, the company thought it would be a wise idea to send me to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a three day sales seminar. I was lodged in a fine hotel in downtown Pittsburg which was taller than any building in Bennington and, come to find out, had elevators. I was about to receive my Elevator Baptism by Fire!

The first day at the hotel I did not touch anything elevator related: no doors, no buttons; I simply followed the crowd and observed. The second day was a day of decision. I thought I would try my hand or fingers as it were on the buttons. What could possibly go wrong? Hmmmm. What I didn't understand was that there was an up elevator and a down elevator. Need I say more? A little lack of knowledge can be very embarrassing and due to this lack of knowledge (of proper elevator etiquette) I became an "irritant" to many riders throughout the day. I am sure some were glad to see me go back home on the third day. Who was that "wrong way person?"

Returning home to Bennington I felt a little safer and a lot less harrassed. But now I knew elevators were no friend of mine. I worked at the Hotel Putnan for many years, no elevators. I went to school at St. Francis de Sales Academy on North Street, no elevators (and these were two of the tallest buildings in Bennington!). I realized I was elevator illiterate. I should have taken a course on elevators like Elevator 101 or The Basic Elevator. I cannot think of an elevator anywhere in Bennington during the 1950s or 1960s! Maybe at the Putnam Memorial Hospital but it's to late.

You see, when I enter an elevator today I don't take anything for granted. Anything can happen! Use your imagination for God's sake. But, Sadie and Ellie are fearless. They don't care which button they push or what floor they end up on. I think I should stop worrying and relax and be just like my granddaughters. They have taught me to look differently at elevators. In the words of Blood, Sweat and Tears: "What goes up must come down.." Relax and be The Rider.

By Tom Pinsonneault is a former resident of Bennington and an occasional Banner columnist.

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