This bugs me more than you might expect. "Yeah yeah," you're saying - "So elevators skip 13. So what? Who cares?" Well dammit, I do. And you know something: if that's all it was, just the whole skipping 13 thing, I might, might let it slide. But oooooh no, elevator floor-numbering dishonesty doesn't stop there. It only begins.
The real problem is much worse. See, once it became commonplace for buildings to pretend that the 13th floor was really the 14th, all responsibility to truth telling in floor-numbering pretty much crumbled. Have you ever paid attention to the extent to which buildings will lie about what floor is what? Or to how common it is?
It's all about height. It's about pretending the building is taller than it really is. It's about inducing people to rent apartment space or office space from your highrise by tricking them into believing they're moving in to a higher floor. But they not! They isn't! They ain't!
For years, I've been sort of peripherally aware that this was going on. I'd be in an elevator in an office building, and I'd see that the floors started at 10 and went up to 50, and I'd be thinking "This building doesn't really have 50 floors, does it?" And then I'd forget about it. But things came to a head just recently here in Las Vegas. We have all these towering hotels here, and all of them are competing to be the biggest and the baddest. I was in an elevator at the Wynn not too long ago, and noticed that the floors went up to 60.
Now you have to realize - no way does the Wynn have 60 floors. 40... 45... maybe 50. That's it. So I went to the front desk and asked how many floors were in the building. "60." I was told. "But are there really 60 floors in the building?" I asked. "Or are you skipping some?" Two clerks went into a huddle, but they didn't know. Ultimately they brought in a security guy who was in the vicinity. The conversation went something like this.
Security Guy: "There are 60 guest floors."
Me: "But there aren't really 60 floors in the tower, right?"
SG: "No, there are only 50 floors in the building."
Me: "So how can there be 60 guest floors?"
SG: "Well, there's no floor 40 through 49."
Me: "Why not?"
SG: "The number 4 is very close to the Mandarin word for death. Or wait, no. It's the Cantonese word for death. It sounds the same as 'four'. Either that, or the written word is the same. I don't know. But the number 4 is very unlucky for the Asians."
Me: "Is there a 4th floor?"
Me: "There are just no Asians on it then?"
SG: "Uh, I really don't know."
Me: "And there's no 13th floor either?"
SG: "Yes, there's no 13."
Me: "So there's actually only 49 floors then. 60 minus 40-49 minus 13."
SG: "No, there's 50 floors."
Me: "Has there been any concern that maybe you're giving people who use the elevators the wrong impression about the height of the building?"
SG: "No, I don't think that's come up."
At this point I was starting to get looks like maybe they wanted me to transact some actual business, or be on my way. Just as a side note here, I am more and more baffled by the stock the Chinese put in their dumb superstitions. Oh no, the color brown! I mean, we have our own superstitions: the cats and the ladders and spilling salt and all that - but no one's really serious about it right? If someone actually, seriously started panicking over a knocked-over salt shaker, wouldn't that be grounds to conclude that they were massively stupid? "It's all part of their rich, ancient culture" doesn't impress me at all. Grow up, Chinese.
So that's it, really. Like a short man padding his shoes, there's just a sad whiff of desperation in a building trying to fool you into thinking it's tall. It's not a bold or inventive lie, it's just pathetic. It's like a guy on the nautilus saying "98....99...." as you approach. It's just another deception that society feels free to throw at you for the simple reason that no one's bothered to call them on it yet.
Lying elevators: J'accuse!