The longest smoke break of Nicholas White’s life began at around eleven o’clock on a Friday night in October, 1999 …(His) magazine’s offices were on the forty-third floor of the McGraw-Hill Building, an unadorned tower added to Rockefeller Center in 1972. When White finished his cigarette, he returned to the lobby and, waved along by a janitor buffing the terrazzo floors, got into Car No. 30 and pressed the button marked 43. The car accelerated. It was an express elevator, with no stops below the thirty-ninth floor, and the building was deserted. But after a moment White felt a jolt. The lights went out and immediately flashed on again. And then the elevator stopped.
Intrigued? Read the article, in the current issue of The New Yorker. It’s all about elevators — their purpose, their design, their necessity for vertical life. One nugget: the “close door” button doesn’t really do anything. It’s just psychological. Fascinating stuff that you never really think about.
The author, Nick Paumgarten, weaves Nicholas White’s story throughout the article. He ended up being trapped for 41 hours because he had the misfortune to begin his ordeal at the beginning of the weekend. A time-lapse video from the security camera — set to classical piano music — shows him pacing, climbing, opening the doors, laying down. Check out the other elevator cars shown on the other portions of the screen — there are maintenance guys working on them, but no one saw White, who had three cigarettes, no watch, no food and no water:
The McGraw-Hill building houses our other office in New York — that’s exactly where we go for our Commission meetings on the 50th floor (office is on the 46th floor). Maybe I’ve even been in Car 30.
Hopefully they’ve washed it out in the last nine years . . .