Tuesday, April 17, 2012


In the lift on the way to breakfast today, I met an excited 18-year-old. I had taken the back lift (which no one knows about) in the vain hope of avoiding excited 18-year-olds when my face looks like it’s about to hit the floor. Never mind. He was a charming boy.

This is his first EPT and apparently he’s working as a location runner for the TV crew. Let’s call him “Matt”.

“This is my first EPT”, said Matt. “I’m VERY EXCITED!!! How many have you done?”

“Mmm”, I said. “I think about 85. I am also very excited.”

He looked at me as I was actually 85, and probably wasn’t going to make it to the ground floor without a defibrillator.

“Actually, it’s not just my first EPT”, continued Excited Matt. “It’s my first ever JOB! I’m still at university. I’m on a sandwich course.”

I am so tired (already) that for a couple of floors I was trying to work out how a sandwich-maker gets a job as a location runner and then realized, of course, that getting sandwiches is probably a location runner’s main occupation.

I was still wondering what sandwich he could get me when we reached the lobby. “Have a nice day”, he said excitedly, racing off to order his first BLTs of the day.

Hotel lifts are vastly under-rated in my opinion. My former colleague Howard Swains turned me into a New Yorker subscriber simply by describing to me a fascinating article he was reading that was all about lifts.

Every aspect of lifts was covered in enormous detail. Who makes lifts, how these people got into the lift business, which companies make the best lifts (Schindler, obviously – because then you can say “Schindler’s Lift” to fellow travelers and make them all laugh), lift technology, lift decor, lift quirks.

One lift fact Howard told me about is that, in most lifts, the button that says it will close the doors is actually fake. According to Howard’s New Yorker article, by the time people actually press this button, the doors are going to close anyway. It’s just a placebo feature installed by lift manufacturers to make you think you’re in control. I regularly test this theory (mainly to exclude people that I can see running to get into the lift) and I think it’s true about 50% of the time.

In my job, we all stay in hotels all the time so lift discussions are pretty frequent in the media room. Good lifts, bad lifts, particularly fast and slow lifts. Annoying lifts (any lift that requires a key card) and utterly infuriating lifts (the Swissotel in Tallinn which doesn’t tell you that the restaurants on Floor 7 and 24 are closed, it just makes sure the lift buttons don’t work).

Another colleague - Frank Op de Woerd - had a lift theory which we tested extensively somewhere in central Europe. Frank’s Lift Theory is that if you hold the “close doors” button AND your floor button simultaneously, the lift will go straight to your floor without stopping. Apparently this is so that firemen, ambulance drivers and other emergency services like media coordinators can get where they need to go quickly. Unfortunately, this theory did not pan out empirically.

I’ve also done some of my best interviews in hotel lifts. My first lift interview was with Canadian EPT2 Grand Final finalist Marc Karam. This was in the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel where, thoughtfully, they provide little bench seats in the lifts so that, if you ARE doing an interview, you can all sit down.

Karam and I got through a lot of his life history in that lift and since then, I have found lifts a really great place to tackle players, especially those that don’t really want to give an interview.

My favourite lift of all time is in the Meridien Hotel in Monte Carlo. This lift has stunning (possibly real) zebra-skin fabric lining the walls, lots of chrome and mirror, and intense House music playing at all times of the day and night. Every time I get in to a Meridien lift, I immediately feel like swallowing three Es and spending the rest of the day in there clubbing. I am going to the Meridien next week and already pretty excited about the lift.

It’s quite possible my interest in lifts (aka obsession) dates back to early childhood. When we were very young, my parents had a holiday flat in Mallorca. The lift was a rickety metal affair with grubby glazed door. It was always breaking down and was always full of sand. I take some responsibility for the sand as my sister and I spent every summer holiday taking up bucket-loads to our fifth floor apartment so we could have a REAL BEACH on our apartment balcony.)

Anyway, the psychologically significant factor here is that you were not allowed to use this lift (unless accompanied by an adult) UNTIL YOU WERE TWELVE YEARS OLD.

I spent most of my childhood YEARNING to be 12 simply so I could use this lift without waiting for a grown-up. People who know me well will be surprised that I didn’t just use the lift anyway but I am strangely obedient to semi-useless legislation and am pretty sure I stuck it out to 12.

If this was a New Yorker article (and obviously it should be), then I would work out in comprehensive and exhaustive detail, exactly how much of my life I have spent in lifts. As I’ve been stuck in a lift (an exciting story, covered previously in this blog), I imagine it amounts to quite a few days.

Next week: In The Shower