Sunday, August 22, 2004

Manually operated blog.

Last week we had an appointment in the charming Young-Quinlan Building at the corner of 9th St. and the Nicollett Mall, which is a quasi-pedestrian street running most of the length of downtown Minneapolis (quasi because pedestrians have to share it with buses). Young-Quinlan is relatively small as an office building -- five stories -- but it does sport an elegant brick and glass façade, and first-floor retail boutiques pleasant to the eye and injurious to the wallet. At one time, I understand, the building housed a department store co-founded by one Elizabeth Quinlan, a pioneer in purveying ladies' ready-to-wear clothing.

We entered from 9th, and went looking for the elevator bank. “Are you gentlemen looking for something?” said a woman standing in the hall. She was a well-dressed and -coiffured lady of perhaps 70. We told her the business we were looking for. “I’ll take you there,” she said, leading us into one of the elevators.

She entered the elevator ahead of us, and took a position on the front right-hand side, next to a small stool and some iron, old-timey-looking apparatus -- levers of various sorts. (Which said OTIS in raised iron letters.) Immediately I knew that this was a manually operated elevator.

“Excuse me,” I said, “are you an elevator operator?”

“Yes, I am,” she said, closing the outer door, then the accordion-like brass inner door.

“Really? You must be the only one in Minneapolis.” We started to go up, her at the controls. The elevator made whirring sounds.

“This is the only manually operated elevator in an office building in Minneapolis,” she said cheerfully, but also careful to use the qualifier “office.”

“How long have you done this?” I asked. As we were arriving on the fourth floor, she was listing her various elevator operator jobs going back 30+ years, at least one of which was at a defunct department store. The car stopped at the fourth floor with a slight lurch and more creaky machine noises oozing from the walls.

“I enjoy it,” she said as we were leaving the elevator. “I like to keep busy.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t catch her name, nor whether she was the only person to do this job. I thought we might see her on the way out, but the elevator that came that time was an automated one, though I did note that it had been a manual at one time. Why the building decided to keep a manual at all, I couldn’t say. But I’m glad it’s there.


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