Column: January 19, 2012

I HAVE found myself thinking about lifts. This is because this morning, on my way to the Liverpool Post Hyperdome*, I used a lift in Liverpool One.

A disappointed-looking man in his very early forties confronted me as I stepped in. I acknowledged my sad reflection, and noted the glass panel in the side of the lift which faced onto the scene in Paradise Street.

And so, I did what any man wearing glasses and a suit, who has a hint of a kiss curl, and who works for a newspaper, would do: I looked out of the window of the ascending lift and pretended I was flying. I don’t think I made a whooshing sound with my mouth, but I cannot be 100% sure.

It occurs to me that that was one of the very few occasions in my life I have actually enjoyed travelling in a lift. Perhaps I am immune to the exoticism of lifts. After all, for the first three years of my life I lived in a block of flats, using a lift every day.

Even now, the smell of stale urine induces in me a Proustian response and I am whisked back to a time of no responsibility, when it was possible to admit to being a devotee of Gary Glitter and provoke nothing more than hoots of derision instead of inclusion on some sort of register.

And, actually, responsibility is the key to my lift discomfort. I do not like having to stand next to the panel of buttons and ensure the floor choices of the other occupants are honoured.

Conversely, I do not like being at the mercy of somebody else at the panel, and having to enunciate the word “three” six or seven times before the button-pusher understands which floor I want even though he has asked me for a number and only one floor in the building has a number which sounds anything like “three,” so what else could I be saying, really?

Also, I do not trust the “door open” button. I accept that the doors will stay open as long as I am pressing the button, but I am aware that the doors are just dying to close and I am worried that they will start to close in the two seconds between my release of the button and my potentially successful exit. I have seen Speed, I know what can happen.

I do not want you to think I have claustrophobia. I have not. Nor that I am scared of heights, although I am. It is just that a very traumatic incident happened to me while I was in a lift and I think it has coloured my outlook.

I was sharing a lift with a young blonde-haired woman I did not know and staring at the door. I was on button duty, so I was quite tense anyway. And, as occasionally happens – inevitably if life were like an American comedy film – a noise occurred. I do not know if there is a scale for such things, but it would certainly have ranked quite highly.

Crucially, however, it was not mine.

Now, I try to be a polite person. I hold doors open for people and don’t swear in church, etc.

Reader, I claimed the fart.

“Excuse me,” I said. What was I doing? There were two people in that lift. Both of us knew who was responsible. And I had acknowledged the trump, making her aware that I knew what she did. No wonder she became enraged by me.

Then the doors opened. And people stepped into the lift. And they also became aware of what she did. I turned to her. She was looking daggers at me.

The other people clocked this. The implication was clear. She was blaming me. And they believed her, because she was young and pretty, and I am rough and old.

It was a life lesson. I should have left the elephant in the room well alone. Hell’s teeth, it smelled like an elephant.

Anyway, I jumped out of the lift at the earliest opportunity and pressed the up button, delaying her journey by a few moments, so in the end I won.

* If you’re looking to buy sign letters, specifically, D, A, I, L and Y, please contact the management for a good deal.

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