1965: After my SCI, I returned to UCLA to continue my education, which I soon discovered was not as easy as it used to be. Most older buildings had no elevators, and those that did were not meant for humans. At one building I had to wheel down a perilously steep loading ramp, open a 100-pound door, wheel down a dank hallway and take a freight elevator to my third floor class where a longhaired professor whacked out on LSD recited “poetry.”
1975: I got a minimum wage job with my bachelor’s degree shelving books in the children’s section of a library, a brick building with another steep descending loading ramp. In the basement was a tiny freight elevator next to a musty bathroom that was packed with ancient books in boxes. I squeezed into the elevator to go upstairs, always alone. Some days I took the creaky elevator down to the bathroom to do my business, always worried it would stall midway down. Once there, though, I had plenty of reading material.
1985: My wife and I drove into Portland to see The Nutcracker Suite. The old concert hall actually had a decent elevator. We were told it went to the best seats in the house. Pleased, we rode in silence to the upper floor and were immediately met with steps in every direction. The usher courteously brought a chair for my wife, and the two of us sat next to the elevator, craning our necks to see around the corner all night long.
1995: Party time. The ADA was on the books! We drove into Portland for a Bonnie Raitt concert at a hip venue. I was wheeled into the bowels of an old warehouse. The freight elevator was big enough for Steinway’s grandest grand piano. When the doors clanked shut, the echo resounded throughout the metallic reaches of the warehouse. We disembarked upstairs and found ourselves backstage — the “old” stage. The new stage was at the far end of the building. Room-to-room people. If only we had binoculars.
2005: I had plans to meet my wife at a church where a friend’s memorial service was being held. I came late, the upper parking lot was packed, so I drove down to the lot below the church to park, thinking there would be an elevator to the sanctuary. No soap. I had no choice but to wheel up a steep hill. Halfway up, the pains in my chest began. At the top of the hill, flushed, sweating, out of breath, I met my wife. She looked alarmed, and for good reason. A day later I had open heart surgery.
2015: Out to dinner to celebrate my 70th birthday, we took the elevator from the parking garage in search of the swank restaurant. The doors slid open to massive stairs. Where was the restaurant? An exit led to a downstairs street-level entrance. A busboy escorted us to a — you guessed it, freight elevator. After our meal, the elevator doors wouldn’t open. “Sorry,” said the apologetic manager, “the elevator shuts down after 6 p.m.”