Monday, April 6th, 2009

Trapped in an Elevator: A Survival Story

elevatorIt started off as a typical day. I got off the metro, stopped by Starbucks, got to SPI‘s building and hopped in the elevator to ride up to the 10th floor. Two other people got onto the elevator with me. After the elevator deposited the other riders on the fifth floor, the doors shut and… nothing happened. I hit the plastic “open doors” button and nothing happened. I hit the “close doors” button and the doors stayed closed. I hit the “5″ button, hoping it would “realize” that I’m still on the fifth floor and let me out. Nothing happened. I was trapped.

What does a graphic designer who is trapped in an elevator do? I pulled out my cell phone and started dialing. First I called SPI’s Manager of First Impressions, Yvonne, and she started pulling her strings with building management. Then I used the elevator’s “For Emergency Use Only” phone and called for help. After having me push a series of buttons, they determined that I was, in fact, stuck and let me know that they would be sending over a technician. While I was waiting, I had nothing better to do but assess my situation.

The first thing I did was take inventory of my ‘”Emergency Trapped in an Elevator Survival Kit”‘ a.k.a. whatever I happened to have in my bag. My Starbucks Grande Apple Chai, a box of Tic Tacs, a bag of Famous Amos Cookies, the newspaper, a soduku book and my cell phone. My next step was to to explore the surroundings. I was in the freight elevator, so it has furniture pads attached to the walls and a foam mat to pad the floor. Finally, I did what any plastics industry association employee who writes for a blog about plastics would do — I tallied all the things around me made of plastic. But before I began to make my list, a bell rang and the elevator started to move. “DING!” — The doors opened and I was released from the elevator on the 10th floor.

Truth be told, the total amount of time I was trapped was significantly less than the amount of time it took to write this blog post, but the story is exciting to tell. After my daring escape, I realized that having a cell phone really makes being trapped in an elevator much more bearable. It provides a connection to the outside world — other than the emergency phone. Most portable electronics, let alone a cell phone, wouldn’t be available without plastics.

Cell phones these day weigh between 2 to 5 ounces, which is made possible by improved technologies over the years in design and by the use of plastics — the perfect choice of material when it comes to durable, light-weighting designs. Cell phones, such as the Motorola W233 or the Samsung Blue, can even be manufactured out of recycled plastics. Standard features in cell phones include various buttons, a screen, a camera, speaker capabilities and a few others. How many of these things would you be able to do without plastics?

I came across one Web site that listed the parts for a very popular phone you might have heard of…the iPhone. According to the site, the following parts of an iPhone are made of plastic:

  • Camera: Housing (black injection molded plastic), Lens (injection molded clear polycarbonate)
  • Display: Housing (white injection molded polycarbonate), Backlight Diffuser (molded clear polycarbonate)
  • Main Phone: Case, Top and Bottom Covers, Various Buttons (injection molded plastic), Camera Window (injection molded polycarbonate), Insulators (polyester film)
  • Circuitry: SIM Card, Printed Circuit Board (polyimide film), Various Components
  • Accessories: Docking Station, Charger, Head Phones

If you take away all of the plastics from the cell phone, you would have little more than a few sheets of copper and some glass. So the next time you get stuck in an elevator, remember that your portable connection to the real world is made possible by plastics.

And if it does happen, here’s hoping it’s nothing like what happened to this poor soul.

Leave a Comment