Greenpoint, October, 2015

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Elevator

A story by Sławomir Mrożek 

The Chairman came to us and declared: "My fellow citizens. Important news. They are building us an elevator."

At first, we were surprised. Our building only has a ground floor.

"Difficult," observed the Chairman. "Modernization. We can't shirk it. Let's put our heads together and solve this problem." We considered long and hard and, in the end, discovered a solution. The builders came and put up the elevator according to our design, which was quite simple.

We hired an employee who would make sure that everyone who entered the building would first take the elevator to the basement and from there to the ground floor. Those who wanted to leave the building would first take the elevator to the roof, from there to the ground floor and out.

Everything went well. Then, to save the elevator from wear and tear, it was ordered that it could only be used to take people up. To go down, they must use the stairs. This complicated things. Now whoever wanted to enter the building had to first take the stairs to the basement, wait there for the elevator, then take it to the ground floor. And those who wanted to go out had the right to take the elevator to the roof but then had to use the stairs to descend to the ground floor.

Apparently this wasn't enough to save the elevator. Another order came declaring that the elevator could only be used--even going up--by directors, pregnant women, invalids, or recipients of the Silver Cross.

The results were fatal for us. None of our workers fell into the second category. We appealed to the council but with no satisfaction. As for invalids, the treasurer was missing something down there but he concealed it. Now only the Chairman can take the elevator. Eventually, the elevator stopped working entirely, and the problem disappeared.

Mrożek (Photo: Horst Tappe)
Unfortunately, we had gotten used to having multiple floors. And using the stairs is so tiresome.

(From Opowiadania, 1960-1965. Translation: BTB)

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