I’ve lived in Beijing for five years now and in China for over eight. I’ve traveled to many corners of the country and seen and experienced all manner of cultural and social wonders and oddities. I, by no means, would claim to be a China expert, but I’ve experienced enough that nothing really surprises me anymore. Or so I thought.
This weekend, when a friend and I returned from the store and entered the building lobby to catch the elevator, we found an unusual number of other people waiting for the elevator along with a long piece of furniture (let’s call it a china cabinet). I figured the hold-up was due to one elevator being serviced by the technician as the door was open and we could see inside the elevator shaft and the top of the elevator.
When I saw the china cabinet, I remarked to my friend that they would need a chainsaw to cut it in half in order to get it inside the elevator. That’s when we realized that it was not an elevator technician who was servicing the elevator on the left, but rather it was the building maintenance man who was helping the movers fit the cabinet on top of the elevator cab. Since the cabinet didn’t fit in the elevator, the maintenance man suggested they stick it in on top of it. To keep the cabinet from hitting the walls in the elevator shaft, the man had to hold it while the elevator cables passed between his arms. I was so dumfounded, I almost didn’t take a photo.
As I see it, this was either a practical solution to probably a fairly common problem, or a ridiculous idea that will one day end in disaster (or maybe a bit of both). Since my brother works in the elevator industry, I sent him a few photos and asked him about it. His response was brief: it is not an uncommon practice as long as there are “two trained elevator technicians” to do the move. He also added that it is highly dangerous. I’m guessing our maintenance man and a mover didn’t quite meet the “two trained technicians” guideline. Fortunately, the move ended without incident. All the same, once again, China managed to surprise me.
Photos by Christopher Lay