Tuesday, 9 June 2015

jacob’s ladder

Previously on PfRC, we set out to experience what’s called a Paternoster, a cyclical elevator, and upon learning that there were two housed in buildings I knew, spent the lunch-hour investigating. First I tried the Federal Office of Statistics (Statistisches Bundesamt oder Destatis), which I always regarded as a curious institution to begin with.  It’s sort of like the Harper’s Index for the state of Germany—whenever rarefied, detached facts and figures, the numbers of bean-counters, are cited in the news (employment, traffic accidents, annual litres of beer per capita, the price of eggs in China), it’s often given the dateline of Wiesbaden—and I suppose it’s doubly curious that this bureau would hold on to its relic of a Paternoster as I could just imagine the report being compiled in those corridors about how x-number of Germans were maimed by this contraption in the past quarter. The staff at the reception area were bemused with my request and friendly enough but said it was too dangerous and reserved only for employees of the bureau. Maybe in keeping track of statistics, they somehow avoided becoming one. The staff at the reception also recommended that I try another place, an insurance building just two blocks away.  I was skeptical about there being another so close and in such a modern (and squat) building but I asked at the front desk.
Replying that this had been their third inquiry for the day, I was again told that it was too great a liability (being an insurance company) that I could not ride in it but was allowed through the lobby to look. The conveyor-belt of narrow coffin-like wooden compartments going up and down at a really brisk pace was really keen to behold and I wasn’t sure that I would have stepped into this Jacob’s Ladder willingly myself under other circumstances. H, who was unaware that any still remained, had ridden a Paternoster before and admitted it was a little scary but exhilarating. The construction reminded me of the wooden escalator H and I rode on in the original Macy’s department store in New York City. Undeterred if not now a bit obsessed with the idea, I plan to look a bit further afield. Next time I find myself in Frankfurt, I will make it a priority (or make a special trip) to visit the campus of Goethe University, whose iconic administration building (originally the ensemble of the IG Farben company with intervening incarnations as the command-and-control of the Allied powers, the headquarters of the US Army and the seat of US Army Corps of Engineers) where there is a bank of eight functioning Paternosters—beloved by the student-body and probably won’t be gutted any time soon in the name of safety.