The lift in our apartment building was recently replaced. It’s an old building, a relict of the Alacrity Era of flat-building in the city, and the lift was accordingly fairly ancient. It was one of those double-gated affairs that got water-logged when it rained too much, got stuck between floors when the current got cut, and was a perennial hazard to little kids who wanted to stick their hands into the gate. It also let out a high-pitched ‘squeeeeeeeeee’ sound every time it was opened, and continued squealing until both doors were fully shut. That amounted to, as you can imagine, quite a lot of squealing in one day. That’s not even counting all the squealing that happened when the voltage was low or one phase of current randomly disappeared (which happened often).
I think I’m going to miss that old lift. And I’ll tell you why.
The new one they’ve put in has The Voice. You know the one I’m talking about. That strident, school-marm-ish voice that admonishes you, ‘Please close the door. Dayavu saithu kadavai moodavum.’ over and over and over again from the moment the doors open until they’re finally shut. It’s like having a bossy lady materialise at your elbow, nagging you non-stop to shut the damn door in two languages every time you step into the lift and every time you step out. And in a small block of flats like ours, the nagging isn’t just restricted to when you personally use the lift. That disembodied voice floats into the living room at all times night and day, preceded by those ominous chimes: ding ding DING! ‘Please close the door. Dayavu saithu kadavai moodavum. Please close the door. Dayavu…” It’s like being haunted by an anal, repetitive, bilingual ghost. An electronic ghost that’ll nag you to death.
There was a time when I was younger, when I was first introduced to The Voice, that I actually found it quite funny. My brother and I would joke that there was a lady called Nandini madam, in a starchy cotton sari, sitting above the air duct in the lift, waiting to speak to us. That was before I was bombarded by her voice over and over to the point of absolute saturation.
Of course, it might just be that I’ve developed a wee bit of an intolerance for these recorded voices. My other big electronic-voice bugbear is that lady who, for one of the mobile providers (I don’t recall which one), waits until you’ve placed a call and heard it ring at the other end some 20 times, and then informs you in the most patronising tone ever that “The number you are calling is not picking up.” First of all, the number I’m calling can’t pick up, being that it’s, well, a number. And secondly, really? I hadn’t figured it out at all. I mean, the fact that their phone rang and rang and rang, and that I’m listening to you instead of them really didn’t clue me in. Thanks for letting me know that they’re not picking up. Really.
Anyway, when I moved into this apartment building after marriage, I was very relieved to find that Nandini madam didn’t live here. But now that she’s moved in, I have to take a call. Is this building big enough for the both of us?
Give me that squealy ol’ lift any day.