Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Egyptian Way :: The Lift

The Egyptian Way :: The Lift

I live on the seventh floor. My building has two elevators or as it's call in Egypt (and many other parts of the world) - the lift. Actually, there are four elevators in the building, but two are directly accessible for me.

Unfortunately since early January, there has only been one working elevator. Unfortunately, the one working elevator only works 'sometimes'. This was quite the bane of my existence (and my protest partners) during the Egyptian revolution in late January and early February. After being out at Tahrir Square all day, we'd take the hour long walk home only to find that elevator didn't work ... we'd mumble and grumble and curse up the entire seven/nine flights of stairs.

Well, after the revolution ended, the only working elevator continued to work sporadically. One day I got fed up and sent an extensive email to everyone who had something to do w/the elevators. The short story of their response was that both elevators will be functional in August, 2011. I already have a short list of who's not happy about that, but in August, 2011, there'd better be two working elevators.

I say all that to say this: Today was a teaching day for me - I leave home at 7:30 a.m. and I get home usually around 7:30 or 8 p.m. I'm usually exhausted. Today was no different. When I arrived at the only working 'lift' the doors were open and there was a man visibly working on it. I stood there - exasperated. I began to think of ways to get to the seventh floor: I could take the stairs, no, I can walk to the other side of the building and take the girls elevator to the sixth floor (that's as high as it goes) ... no, just take the stairs, they're right there ... I'm thinking real fast because I'm also hungry.

Here's 'the lift' on the seventh floor. That box on the left is the other lift that's being repaired. (Mar., 2011).

But then the man fixing the elevator, who I've seen around and whose name is Mohamed says ... "Gowwa, gowwa." I'm confused. "Gowwa" means inside in Arabic, but what's he trying to say? The next thing I know, the elevator doors close. Now, I'm certain that I'll have to take the stairs ... but then the doors open back up - in seconds - and the elevator is there like it's always been there and ready for me to get in and ride up - it's like it's a magic trick, but I'm suspect. I walk closer and Mohamed encourages me to get in. What? His voice alone startles me. I look up and there he is. I say, "La. La." That's "No" in Arabic, but he's insistent. So, reluctantly I walk in the elevator. I glance up. He can see me and points for me to select a floor. I hit the button for the seventh floor and I immediately think, "Well, he'll be okay since there are several floors above seven; at least he won't get smashed." I know, forget the fact that he could get electrocuted or whatever else. Not only that, but I failed to think that "I'm in an elevator that, just seconds ago, was being repaired." Wtw?

When I hit seven, the elevator didn't move. But Mohamed starts to rustle around and eventually we're going upward. All the while I'm thinking "What kinda ish is this?" Luckily, the ride is over before I can repeat that phrase too many times. When the doors open on my floor, I get out of the elevator and begin to walk toward my flat, but Mohamed is trying to tell me something ... he wants me to send the elevator back down ... huh?

I push the ground floor and as I walk away I say to myself, "What the hell just happened?" I know that me and the residents of the building have complained loudly about the sometimes working lift, but I've never experienced something quite like that before, nor do I want to do it again. I mean, if there's going to be a man operating the elevator, I'd rather he be in the elevator than on top of it.

I'd love to get a picture of 'the man inside the elevator' (you know, like 'the man behind the curtain' in "The Wizard of Oz"), but I can't imagine calling 'the lift' again and also wondering if it will come? And/or if it does come, will Mohamed be there ... ?

ADDENDUM: The next morning, when I went to call the elevator, (surprise) it's not working. After walking down the seven flights of stairs, I went to the front desk to tell them that elevator's not working; they look at each other blankly and offer me no sign that they know what I'm talking about; I walk away more frustrated than ever and head to my Arabic lesson. I'm gonna learn this language and use it to give a few people a piece of my mind ... in their language.

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