Terry Fowler

Elevator Hanky-Panky

“Fourth floor.”

Did I hear that right? It might as well have been, “Come on up, sailor.” Who hired that woman to call out the floors?

Deep in the bowels of Toronto Western Hospital’s east wing is a bank of elevators, which Shelly and I have used a number of times. The lilting voice that names the floors is, well, downright seductive. It has to be heard to be believed. Each floor announcement has so much sexual innuendo that at first we thought we had misheard it.

A more jolting disconnect between these recordings and the serious happenings in a major modern hospital could hardly be imagined.

Even after many visits we are still startled by the brazenness of the invitation and find it difficult to stifle a smile. No one else seems to react the way we do – maybe they’re just too polite. I suspect that after a while we all get inured to physical surroundings that we experience regularly.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A more playful sense of perception could certainly liven up our day and could inform the way we design and run our institutions. Hospitals (and airports, and schools) could have brightly coloured murals and abundant potted plants. Elevator recordings could have all sorts of personalities (Humphrey Bogart? Kermit the Frog?) Humour goes a long way. We have been delighted to be cared for by nurses who are not only accomplished and intelligent but also marvellously witty.

Along these lines, one could wonder what sort of shenanigans are unfolding in the ophthalmology examining rooms on the sixth floor of this wing of Toronto Western, or in the ultrasound cubicles on the fourth floor. Or for that matter, what is happening in those elevators after everyone goes home.

I am not preoccupied with sex, nor do I regularly indulge in lascivious fantasies. But our visits to Toronto Western Hospital have definitely become a bit more spicy.

“Going up?”