My wife and I recently had some friends over for dinner, and at some point, the conversation turned to elevators. I was asked several questions about equipment and the industry in general (“What country has the most elevators?”). I talked about the differences between traction and hydraulic elevators, safety codes and how much smaller most elevators in Europe are compared to those in North America.
Thinking about this conversation later, I recalled many questions raised by family and friends (and sometimes strangers) when they learned I was involved in the industry, no matter how peripheral. I have helped people find information on residential lifts, put them in contact with those in the industry who supply dumbwaiters and given advice on how to safely ride escalators (“Be careful wearing rubber-soled shoes”). I have also probably bored people on elevators and escalators by explaining how they work, (“The counterweight must equal the weight of the car plus 40% of the rated capacity.”), where they were built (“Did you know that Schindler is one of the world’s largest elevator manufacturers and is based in Switzerland?”) and their history (“No, Elisha Otis didn’t invent the elevator; he just developed a safety mechanism so that people could ride them safely.”).
What makes this all so amazing is that only a few years ago, I knew virtually nothing about vertical transportation. (I knew if you pushed the button with the number three on it you went to the third floor and that you should hold onto the handrail when riding an escalator.) I have been a writer and editor most of my life. As a reporter, I knew how to ask questions, do research and put sentences together in ways that other people (hopefully) found interesting. Then I came to ELEVATOR WORLD and, literally, a whole new world opened.
Not that I’m an expert — far from it, but you don’t hang around people knowledgeable about a subject without picking up something (at least if you pay attention). Early in my EW career, Bob Caporale took me to Mobile’s Government Plaza (where there is a bank of panoramic elevators) to show me how they work. I traveled to the Memphis area to write an article on the ThyssenKrupp Elevator facilities there and met with several of the company’s designers and engineers. I interviewed Bobby Schaeffer about new training programs being developed for elevator mechanics. I attended Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation meetings. I flew to Milan, Italy, and talked with industry leaders at the Lift trade show. How could I not have learned a lot about the industry?
Now, I notice a lot more things when I enter an elevator, escalator or moving walk, such as nameplates (“Hmmm… Montgomery Elevator, that means this was built and installed before KONE acquired the company.”) and safety (“I sure hope they don’t try to put that stroller on the escalator.”).
I feel like a part of the vertical-transportation industry (although an admittedly very small part). I hope I represent it well.