In the lobby of the building there was a glass encased marquee that listed the floors and office numbers for the professionals of the building. I looked through the glass case to find the person that I sought; the floor, and the room number. The elevator was located at the one side of the lobby.
I walked across the marble floor to the elevator. The elevator wasn’t on the there on the bottom level. I could see that the shaft was dark and empty, through the small window of the door. I could see a metal accordion gate on the other side of the door. It was a time when elevators had an operator who would greet you and take you to the floor that you requested.
I reached out and pressed the black button with a white arrow that pointed upwards. There were two buttons were centered in the shiny brass plate. Even though this was the ground floor of the building, there must have been a basement, because there was another button pointing down. Above in dark recesses the elevator shaft, I could hear a loud resonating ring of a bell. In response to my summons, I could hear the rumble above of something heavy being closed and then the squeak and rattle of something lighter closing..
From the emptiness shaft, I heard the rumble of an electric motor starting and the shush of the car starting to descend. Through the small window, I could see the cables loop lower and lower as the pale light in the dark shaft grew stronger. The humming swoosh and the clicking sound of the elevator car grew louder as it lowered to the floor where I stood with my mom waiting.
The thick, dark floor of the elevator came into view as the floor of the car lowered past the window. The thrum of the elevator became louder as it neared its stop. A gentle jiggling of the controls by unseen hands leveled the floor of the car with the floor of the building.
I could see a black hand reach across the window to unlatch and pull open an accordioned metal, safety gate. A pull caused it to scissor open to the one side. The hand reappeared and I could hear the rasp of metal as the windowed door slid open.
To one side of the now open door, was a wooden, fold-down seat and on it sat a middle aged black woman. She smiled at me. Her dazzling white teeth were even more pronounced against her ebony skin. “What floor, please?” she asked.
My mom told her what floor we needed. She smiled again as she reached for a metal handle that was attached to the inside of the solid door and pulled. The door slid closed. She pushed the accordion gate closed as well before settling back onto her fold down seat.
Adjusting the controls in front of her, the elevator rumbled to life and began its slow ascent up the dark shaft with a small bump. Pushing the wall mounted control farther, the elevator car gained some speed, but by all modern standards, its ascent wasn’t very fast. Several floors passed the elevator's small window. I could see numbers painted in white on the thick, dark concrete designating each floor as we passed.
She slowed, as the floor we needed approached. A short adjustment with the speed of the car and we were there. She opened the gate and the thick door.
As I exited, she gave us a dazzling smile and said, “Have a good day.”
“Thank you.” I replied and exited the elevator with my mom.