Saturday, June 14, 2014

African Adventures Volume 5. Otis

So the thing is, when you want to live at the beach cheaply, some sacrifices must be made. Our little place is really cute. It’s got some nice touches and a stunning ocean view and it’s really inexpensive. There are downsides such an only being able to turn on a couple of lights in the house or the circuit breaker will overload. It’s okay, I’m too busy looking at the ocean to care. It’s too beautiful here to complain but there is one thing that does cause me a tiny smidgen of anxiety.

His name is Otis or the Otis 2000 to be exact and he is our elevator. It says so right on the sign. We live on the fourth floor so it was important that we got on the right footing with Otis from the start.

When we moved in we were warned that Otis is temperamental. Sometimes he goes where you need him too and other times he just opens and closes his doors over and over again. On those days we take the stairs. All four flights of them. It’s okay, I need the exercise anyway.

My only fear is getting stuck inside of Otis. The other day the power went out unexpectedly. We were using the toaster and the stove so at first I just assumed the breaker was outraged at my audacity, trying to use two appliances at once but it turns out it was just a typical South African power outage. I looked out of my door at Otis and saw that the light was off. I looked at Rog. “You know, if we’d been inside that elevator we’d be stuck right now.”

He shrugged it off like most things and I said, “Seriously, can you imagine being stuck in there? Possibly for hours?”

“Yeah but it probably won’t happen.”

Somehow I didn’t find that a comforting thought. I ran into a fellow tenant a few days later who gave me some advice. “Don’t press any buttons until the lift (they call everything by the wrong name here. EVERYTHING) closes and only then press the number for the floor you want."

I tried it and it does work. I get in Otis every morning and greet him sweetly, as if he were the family dog. “Good boy, Otis, good job, you got me there, good for you.” On the days it doesn’t work I don’t wish him any harm. I’m not using up any karma points by being angry at Otis. The stairs are just fine.

The other thing about Otis is that for a brief moment when you get where you’re going there is a kind of mechanical wheezing and then suddenly the floor drops out from under you about a foot as Otis comes to a halt. The first time it happened I nearly fell over but now I merely brace myself for the impact and shrug it off.

One day Otis was clearly in a bad mood. I saw that he was up on level three so I pushed the button. It took awhile but he finally showed up. The doors flew open as they tend to do and then suddenly shut. I managed to get the door open again but when I pushed the button for my floor nothing happened. I wondered if it really was the smartest thing to do, standing there inside a temperamental elevator that might close its doors and still go nowhere and perhaps decide today is the day that nobody gets out... I decided to exit and take the stairs.

This morning Otis ignored my impatient taps on the button. I didn’t hear the familiar rumble or the crazed squeak that he does just before he opens the door. There was only silence. Fine, s’ok. Another trek down four flights of stairs won’t hurt me.
When I came back off the beach I noticed that Otis was on level two which was unusual because he likes to hang out at three unless summoned. I called him and he finally arrived but his door wildly opened and closed faster than usual as if he was having a nervous breakdown and didn’t know if he could handle giving me a ride or not. Usually this is the point where I sigh and go to the stairs but I was determined. I shoved my hand in to keep Otis from snapping shut and I got in. I pressed number three and he took me to one, opened the door and tried to shoo me out but I stayed put.

The door closed and then we went to two and it opened again. I folded my arms and waited. This time when the doors closed I thought, listen, you are really dumb. Is it worth getting stuck in this steel death trap just to save a few minutes of walking? By then Otis was ambling up to my stop. He did his usual lurch and then drop and I picked my stomach off the floor and then got out.

So I know it’s a bit of a Russian roulette situation with Otis. There may come a day when he decides to stop working completely, a day when he’ll say, “Enough is enough, no more rides for you or any of your kind!” That day might come but it’s not this day, at least not yet. So wish me luck as I get myself ready to take my afternoon walk.

P.S I have to admit I felt quite guilty taking the pictures of Otis because I had to press the button. When he opened and I didn't get in I could feel his palpable disappointment. The thought here's a taste of your own medicine came to mind but I didn't say anything.

Cheers from South Africa

1 comment:

  1. Don't worry. If you go missing for two, three days, Otis's stomach will be the first place they'll check.