En haut-going up. En descendent, going down. Yes. A short story of the “elevator ladies” of days gone by. To be more exact, a few nostalgic words about the elevator ladies at Eaton’s department store in Montreal, Quebec.
First, let me explain who they were. Elevators were not always automatic, but rather operated by actual people. Elevators had two doors-the external and an interior door, which was sort of a meshed metal door, to prevent people’s clothes from getting caught in closing doors. Elevator ladies operated these doors, pressed floor buttons as well as announced the floor upon arrival. Sometimes, they added what the “floor” was all about.
- Second floor; deuxieme etage; womens’ fashion; mode des femmes
- Basement; sous sol
- Ground floor; rez de chaussee
The ladies who operated these doors wore a lovely uniform, white gloves, hats and gorgeous stockings. They were of all ages. And sometimes I used to ride the elevators just to hear them make announcements, en anglais et en francais.
As well, I loved to see how these ladies remembered people who took the lift with them. People who had been riding with them for years. “Bonjour M. LaPorte, ca va? Bonjour Madame Schwartz, how ‘r u”? Small conversations would often develop about the weather, or other small talk.
I marveled at the elevator ladies’ encyclopedic knowledge of where to find what. “I am looking for a red thimble” “Sous sol, madame, basement at the rear” Or,” ou on peut trouver une laisse du chien?” Quatrieme etage”. (Where can I find a dog leash? 4th floor).
They knew it all, in English and French.
I read once a paper about job satisfaction, that is, what elevator ladies liked about their job.
They loved the regulars; they loved practicing their English; and most of all, they enjoyed answering questions properly. At no time did they feel that their work was meaningless or that the routine was impacting their “wellness”.
Yes, we can do without this job, long rendered superfluous by technology. But I sure miss the elevator ladies, greeters, newspaper men at crossroads, people who answer the phone, and people, yes people, who make life less alienating.
I must admit that one of these elevator ladies was extremely attractive. Her name was Louise M. I was her regular.
For great pictures of elevator ladies, click here.