June 16, 2003

Pseudo-ignorance is bliss

Sometimes in life, a little willful blindness goes a long way. Hot dogs, for example. Everyone knows they're made out of all sorts of nastiness and chemicals that you'd never eat if you really knew what they were. But the thing is, they're damn tasty, and a baseball game just isn't the same without one. So you just kind of pretend you don't know what's really in there so that you can enjoy your hot dog without worrying about what sort of "meat product" you're actually eating, or whether you may be pickling your insides.

A similar reasoning applies (please, go with me here, it will makes sense, I think) to the inner workings of, for lack of a better term, big machines with which you entrust your life. Airplanes, for example. We all have a basic understanding of how they defy gravity despite being a little on the heavy side, but it's not something you really want to think about while you're actually on one, hurtling through the air at 35,000 feet. Better just to accept that it works, you know?

So anyway, I go to do my laundry tonight, and the elevator I ended up in is the one where you can hear the the support cables resonate as the elevator cab descends. On the one hand, from an intellectual standpoint, it's kind of cool, because the sound gets lower as the car lowers, and it's obviously directly related to the length of the cables. (I know it has something to do with changes in frequency or wavelength or pitch or something, but I'm not a musician, and I forgot all my physics as soon as I put my pen down at the end of the final, so I'm not going to make further assertions about what's going on. If you happen to know more precisely, feel free to share. I'm all about the learning here.)

On the other hand, however, when I'm in an elevator, I really don't want to be reminded that all it is is big box suspended by a rope from the ceiling. Because that's what it is.

Not that I didn't really know already, but I got an up-close, first-hand look at the workings of an elevator in my last apartment building. The elvators there were so small that a normal-sized couch wouldn't fit inside, so the only way to get your couch up to your apartment (because they wouldn't fit in the stairs, either) was to have the super jury-rig the elevator to carry the couch on top, and he would stand on top, right there with the couch, and ride up with it, which I'm sure was all kinds of illegal.

Anyway, thinking about the cables and the pulleys and the long, dark elevator shaft is not something you want to be doing when you are actually riding along inside an elvator. Better to just pretend it's a mystical box that magically transports you from one floor to another. Resonating support cables don't really allow you to do this, though, and it's a bit disconcerting. Maybe I should just take the stairs.

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