I once calculated that three months of my life had been spent waiting in airports. It was the beginning of a long study on waiting, that, as its primary and only purpose was to alleviate the boredom during moments of waiting. In my extensive Fforde Archive of valueless photographs, I have themed waiting photographs: Waiting at lights while in the car, waiting in departure lounges, and the best of all, waiting for elevators.
Everything in my picture library is keyworded, and 'waiting for a lift' has 178 hits. Rather than overexcite you with every single one - that pleasure will have to wait for the coffee table book - you can join me instead for some of the exciting highlights...
April 2015, Vietnam: Ah, who can forget Hanoi? This was my second visit, and although my bedroom was on the first floor the stairwell was packed with laundry and cleaning products, so easier to take the elevator. It was quite small, but without the complex parking software one sometimes sees in large hotels - default was to the ground floor, so it was never a huge wait.
My last visit was in 1999 when we were assailed by street vendors trying to sell bootleg copies of The Quiet American and The Sorrow of war. Gone now, swept away in the rush to modernisation, the many bicycles swapped for scooters which now throng the streets. I think I am here contemplating the loss of our constituency back home: Roger Williams (LD) lost to Chris Davies (C) by 4000 votes. Boo. I was in Hanoi representing Britain for the British Council; Etgar Gelert was doing the same for Israel.
September 2014: Four Seasons, Boston. The fifth floor elevator lobby, very roomy and with chairs for extended waits, something that never materialised. This is the very same hotel who looked after me so well when I was caught by Hurricane Sandy, and is equipped with the industry standard intelligent programming for optimal 'parking' of elevators to ensure minimum waiting time. Simply put, the cars are placed at their optimum position based on time of day and occupancy - early morning the cars are parked on the upper floors to take people to breakfast, in the late evening at the ground floor for bed. Middle of the day: Somewhere in between.
A compilation of the all time elevator music greats for the Four Seasons can be found on 'Now that's what I call elevator! Vol 9.' 'Shout out for Samsonite: My red suitcase has weathered nearly fifteen years of global travel.
October 2015: This is the 4th floor Elevator lobby of the Hotel El Djazair in Algiers (See previous post for a trip down the Casbah) and I am here about to head down to the restaurant for breakfast. Beautiful hotel, all tiles and moorish architecture. The dual elevators took a while to arrive as the hotel, I strongly believe, was underelevatored. This was taken on my trusty XA4 Olympus on self timer. Elevator music is not a thing at the Hotel - there is a live band.
August 2015: Yes, well guessed, it's the famous Birmingham Airport Car Park 3 floor 7-8 elevator lobby, before it was carpeted and the walls panelled in walnut, the striplight replaced by crystal chandeliers. As you can see, the joke was totally on me as I was waiting for car 'C' when in fact Car 'D' arrived first. We really had a good laugh about that later.
This was also the trip that I achieved my ten thousand frequent elevator miles and coveted 'Platinum Card' which entitles all holders to the executive waiting room (where available), unlimited elevator muzack on Spotify and the useful 'Fast track' capability to override mid-building stops on the way down.
October 2016: There is another Surrey outside Vancouver (For Canadian readers: 'There is another Surrey in the South of England') Where the Surrey International Writers Conference is held. It's a great meet-up, and this is me on the 15th floor holding up my contribution to the Silent Auction. It's a themed pop art painting depicting an author struggling with one of the endless predicaments that assail us during the writing process: 'Should I introduce my antagonist sooner?' It did sell, so is currently on a wall somewhere in the US. I had to size it to fit my luggage, and is numbered 084 in the Fforde Painting Gazetteer - I paint only sporadically, and am only on canvas 101 since 1994. They are usually pop-art like this, and with acrylics on MDF.
Sept 2019: No trip to Canberra would be complete without a visit to the National Art Gallery, know as CMAG. There was a brief excitement when an unhinged shopper tried to hijack the elevator 'to take them to the Harrod's sales' but they were soon subdued. They have a good collection of art, the highpoint an impressive Pollack, plus examples of most influential 20th century artists, although European Old Masters are a little thin on the ground. Lots of home grown talent, too, including much Aboriginal art. I think this is just outside the canteen. As you can see, the camera on self-timer is just put on any convenient surface - and this is often far away..
I dropped this one in because I liked it, and is the only such plaque I have ever seen. This is at the Huntingdon Hotel in San Francisco which is quite delightful. I think Mary Frazier must have been hugely respected for management to do something like this - 42 years an elevator operator.
I calculated that if the hotel was 150' high and Ms Frazier worked 40 hour weeks with one complete journey on average every three minutes and two weeks holiday a year, she would have travelled a career distance of 35,700 miles.
Recalled May 2nd 2020. This is also no word of a lie - I do collect what I call 'routine' photos of me doing a specific thing over decades. When I drive past the Trumpet pub outside Hereford, I always take a picture - my first dates back fifteen years. I have thirty. Why? No idea. But a reason may present itself, given time...