Who would you want to be stuck in an elevator with?
It's usually a hypothetical question, until a power outage suddenly makes it a very real possibility.
It’s that classic, cliché question interviewers love to ask. But really, if it could be anyone, who would you like to get stuck in an elevator with? By the way, the answer tends to say a lot about who we are, (those who know me would be surprised to learn that my answer is Abraham Lincoln and Coco Chanel, not Ryan Gosling or Christian Bale.) But that question is a hypothetical one, and when we answer it, we never really think about the reality of getting stuck in an elevator.
That is, until it actually happens.
And happen it did in Zurich this week, during a blackout that occurred for several hours affecting many offices and businesses and more than 3,000 homes. The Prime Tower, the tallest building in Switzerland, trapped several people inside its elevators. Although they were rescued in under 20 minutes, the next three hours it took to restore power surely had those affected worried about how to make do without power.
You probably think it will never happen to you. But think again. Blackouts happen all the time, throughout the world. Some are wide-spread and catastrophic, like the blackouts in India in 2012 affecting over 600 million people for weeks, or the Northeastern U.S. blackout in 2003 that left over 10 million people powerless. And some are smaller and less detrimental, much like the one in Zurich. But regardless of the scale, these power outages are beyond an annoyance, and serve as a reminder of how seriously we depend on electricity.
I was living in New York City during the blackout of 2003, and I recall being left with no choice but to walk down 28 flights of stairs, and then a very hot and debilitating walk for 4 hours on a sweltering August day. Streets were eerily dark and quiet that night, not a car or light on the road. And while most New Yorkers certainly tried to make the best of the situation, you can imagine how many people found it beyond inconvenient, to say the least, to be without light, fresh food and, in some cases, running water, particularly on such a hot night.
Because the fact is that electricity runs practically everything. It is the lifeblood of our society. So when it fails us, we remember what a luxury it is, and how much we take it for granted. Our hospitals, banks, streets, food, transport and yes, even toilets, need power. Which means that we need to work even harder to find other means of sustainable power, quickly.
Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time until you may find yourself stuck in an elevator. So you may want to ask yourself, who would YOU want to be stuck in there with?