Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Elevator Tour Finale

Otis 2014 copy
The Definition of Autism Spectrum Disorder usually runs (more or less) as follows: Impairment in communication, socialization and creative play and interests. When my toddler son was diagnosed with autism and the developmental pediatrician told me he would likely have tremendous difficulty expressing himself, be socially awkward and probably have very unusual and specialized interests that the bulk of his peers would not understand — my first response was, “So… you’re telling me I’m in for a lifetime of Star Trek conventions?” The mirrored glass of the observation room bowed and flexed with the unheard laughter of the occupants behind it. You see, UCLA is a teaching hospital and I had apparently been the first mother to ever distill a diagnosis down to its finer points in 2.5 seconds or less, filleting the funny bones of medical students taking notes. Don’t get me wrong the news was horribly painful to hear – but I knew I had to find a manageable box to put this thing in, or we were never going to make it out alive. Or smiling. If you’re me, you don’t really see much of a purpose to getting up in the morning if you can’t find a smile (even the tiniest one) by the end of a 24 hour day.

Autism has presented a ton of challenges over the years and there were an awful lot of tears between my son and myself, the first five in particular. But, there have also been some incredibly fun and beautiful moments, too. My son will be 18 this summer and this Spring Break was definitely one for the books.

Specialized interests are one of the hallmarks of autism. I once knew a boy who could speak of nothing but his love of dinosaurs for hours on end. Another drove his mother to madness with his insistence of only eating foods that were white, no other color would touch his lips. If you watch Big Bang Theory on television, you know that Dr. Sheldon Cooper has a passion for trains and can rattle off quotes and facts like a machine in high gear. My son has developed a few interests over the years, but his #1 love is elevators. And not just any elevators – ones made by the Otis Elevator Co.

Honestly, I just thought all elevators were created the same – and frankly, only thought there were a couple of elevator companies in existence. My experience has been: you walk onto a big metal box with doors that slide and buttons to push and they all pretty much look alike. When my son was 10 years old, he learned to scoff at my elevator naiveté. Scoffing, in and of itself, I believe is a marketable trade for me and my offspring and in elementary school this kid had it down to an art and science as he rolled his eyes and told me the obviously detectible differences between Schindler, Thyssenkrupp, Dover, Kone and… forgive me, I don’t recall the other names. See, it’s not my specialized interest, it’s his.

When my daughter was in high school, she was invited to go with her choir on a number of exciting and exotic excursions and it occurred to me that the boy in the special education program wasn’t going to be offered the same and it made me sad. To fix this injustice, I created “Elevator Tour.” I decided that I was going to take my boy to his favorite city (again, not mine – his) Las Vegas and we would spend two days visiting all of the hotels and see their elevators. It wasn’t until the first evening of the first day of the first trip that I realized the monster of an undertaking I’d created. I’m not a numbers person, but let me give you some facts about what came to be involved in Elevator Tour: The Las Vegas strip consists of 4.2 miles of hotels on both sides of the street. Each hotel is a minimum of about 300 feet in height. One mile equals approximately 5200 feet. Every hotel has a minimum of a dozen elevators that travel about 500 feet a minute. To sum it all up: walking up and down 4.2 miles of road, then inside each hotel and in and out of every guest/handicap/service elevator offered from 9am to 5pm equals four very tired mother and son feet. [I once wore a pedometer that clocked us at a total of 21 miles – this AFTER we’d pared our elevator touring down to exclusively elevators made by Otis.]

I held to my promise of doing this Elevator Tour for my boy for five years – until the day my son was as tall as me and was showing signs of a mustache (him, not me). I told him we were starting to look like a mother-son robbery team “casing the joint” and as proud as Vegas is of their mob history, I didn’t think they’d cotton to the idea of us roaming their halls and elevators for hours on end each day. We were starting to look fishy, even to me.

So, this year, I approached the Otis Elevator Co. in Las Vegas and told them about my boy and his passion for their elevators. I told them that he’d come to appreciate the fact that Otis consistently sounded the same in pitch and volume (musically, he has perfect pitch) and he could not say the same about other elevator companies and told them how impressed he was by their updated fixtures that he’d begun to notice showing up over the last handful of years we visited Vegas. I explained that my son’s dream career would be to work for Otis, specifically in his favorite (his, not mine) city of Las Vegas. Then, I told them we’d be making our last Elevator themed trip to the city of lost wages during Spring Break with my planned intention of showing him what it would be like to be a resident of the area. They invited us to call them and take a tour of their offices when hit town.

Here’s how our final Elevator Tour played out:

Day #1 – We rode the city buses in order to see what running errands would feel like if you actually lived in Las Vegas. We waited on bus benches in the 90 degree heat (not the potential 120 degrees of summer, I reminded him repeatedly). We took a lengthy stop and go ride into the residential areas, where we hopped off the bus at one point to shop at the grocery store (for two liter bottles of water, etc.) and a nearby pharmacy. We then carried those cut-into-your-arm plastic bags on the long, hot, stop and go ride back to our waaaay off the strip hotel (but, big shout-out to South Point! We love you!!). We may or may not have ended the exhausting day with an adult beverage and Shirley Temple.

Day #2 – We visited with the amazing employees of the Otis Elevator Co. I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure their company mission statement must speak of a capacity for tremendous compassion, generosity and a wicked sense of humor – because each and every person there was an incredible example of those very qualities. While they were kind enough to make sure we departed with armloads of logoed gear (one gentleman even parted with a well-deserved award he’d won from the corporate office), we left with even more…hearts filled, from all that they’d given us of the human spirit.

We took a break for lunch and then met up with an Otis Technician and Supervisor at one of the hotels to walk the property to see the different types of elevators in operation, including the relatively new environmentally friendly Gen2 proven flat-belt technology (please know that I have no idea what I just typed). My son was in Otis elevator heaven and I was overwhelmed by the kindness shown to us by the Otis employees (and, I’m not gonna lie – now that I have bum knees, I was also happy to NOT have to walk 20+ miles).

Now, we are packing up to go home, having graduated from Elevator Tour at the end of six years. The journey of autism has most definitely been a decades-long trail of ups and downs for my household, but Elevator Tour has only been a journey of forward movement, each year taking us higher and higher than the year before. As a parent of a child growing up under the umbrella of autism, Elevator Tour and the Otis Elevator Co. have given me what I believe to be a glimpse of heaven and how high human beings can lift one another up, when given the chance. I will be eternally grateful for how high they’ve lifted my son.

I feel it’s a responsibility for anyone who breaks through a certain ceiling…to send the elevator back down and give others a helpful lift.” – Kevin Spacey

That pleasure which is at once the most pure, the most elevating and the most intense, is derived, I maintain, from the contemplation of the beautiful.” – Edgar Allan Poe

4 thoughts on “Elevator Tour Finale

  • Nancy Sullivan says:

    T: Thank you for such a beautiful article. What a wonderful writer you are! It was such a pleasure to be able to fulfill a wish for Jordan and believe me you have both touched my heart and made me so much more appreciative of the human spirit! All of us at Otis wish Jordan well and hope we can help him whenever possible.

    • TKatz says:

      I have asked everyone I know (or who will listen to the sound of my voice) – to share this article (feel free to do so, too) and let the world know what an incredible company Otis is. From A to Z… every person we’ve met, spoken to or communicated with has been just wonderful. I have to believe there is something in the water (cooler) at Otis. Hugs to all of you!

Leave a Reply