Thursday, November 11, 2010

Marshak Elevator Fun

Last week I blogged about the temporary signs in the new Marshak Hall elevators at City College.  In a comment there, Jonathan/Yoni suggested that I make a "very temporary" sign surrounding the existing one.  So, I did.

First, I measured the existing sign, which got me some strange looks in the elevator. Then, I used Inkscape to draw the existing sign, as well as the changes I wanted to make:

Our lab has a big printer for printing posters, and things like that, so I printed the "very temporary" addition out on it and trimmed out the center:

With a few pieces of masking tape on the back, I was ready to go!  I rode up to the 13th floor, held the door open with my backpack, and attached the sign:
My first attempt was a little bit big.  And, what I hadn't noticed at first was that the actual "temporary" signs were a bit off-scale and the bottommost arrows were pointing too high; my sign was closer to the positions of the buttons!

Anyway, I rode the elevator up and down for around 15-20 minutes to see people's reactions.  I don't have the hidden camera/microphone supplies of the Improv Everywhere guys, so you'll have to take my word for the reactions. Most people either didn't notice or didn't react. Some people thought it was funny (one or two camera phone pictures were taken) and some people got very confused.  I needed to leave the elevator eventually because some guy noticed I kept riding the thing up and down (also, I was getting a bit motion sick).

I printed a second sign that got the width right, but I still need to adjust the color and height.
I don't know how long these ultimately stayed up for, because I eventually got a bit dizzy again (and I also had work I needed to do...).

The really strange thing, though, is that I think someone else might have been pranking the system at the same time! I noticed that some floor signs outside the elevator had been covered:
This was on the actual 5th floor. But, if you push the button labelled "5" on the permanent label, the thing will actually take you to the 4th floor, so I guess that's the subtle confusion they were going for.

I'm thinking this might have had a better effect if I covered the existing sign, but that might seriously confuse innocent people and the sign would probably have a mush shorter half life.  Maybe I'll give it a shot anyway, though (April 1st isn't that far away...).  I'd love to hit all 3 elevators at once (maybe I'll rope my labmates into helping out), so, if anyone has any ideas for other symbols to mix up in the labels, let's hear 'em (someone already suggested The Artist Formerly Known As Prince's strange symbol).  Also, if anyone has ideas for a way to cheaply and inconspicuously record people's reactions, let me know, too.


  1. Eli, if I may suggest something, replace the temporary sign with an exact replica of it, except that you will ensure that the button heights and color will match your "Very Temporary" sign. About a day later, you can put up your sign, and you'll get a more natural blend in.

  2. Oh, that's a really good idea!

  3. As far as recording goes, I was possibly thinking of taping a small camera [like a FLIP] to the ceiling, because who looks at an elevator ceiling anyway?

    But there is always the possibility someone might snatch it.

  4. I always look at the ceiling of elevators. I like to try and see if I can find a camera.

  5. I think this is my favorite Lansey antic ever. Shkoi'ach!

  6. I also always look at the ceilings... not to find a camera, but to see how to escape. I would say it is safe to assume that no real person would look at the ceiling though...