Hilary Fannin: The posh elevator and I have had our ups and downs
The disembodied voice emanating from the speaker would appear to have been recorded by a woman well-versed not just in elocution but also in jam-making, cream-clotting and twinset-wearing
Fhuust flaww. Sekond flaww. Thuud flaww. Faawth flaww.
I’ve been riding a lot of hospital lifts lately, gaily sailing up and down in a metal box without a hint of the claustrophobia that used to hound me with nightmarish visions of airless incarceration and years spent pacing around a stainless-steel cube while my children starved to death on the outside. (Albeit in a three-bed terraced house with several sports channels, a stuttering dishwasher and a freezer full of lovingly purchased ready meals.)
I’ve abandoned my fear of abandoning my dependants; an anxiety, I’ve been led to speculate, that may have been at the root of my fear of enclosed spaces. It wasn’t so much that I was caged-in that led to the heart racing, the nausea and the ringing in my ears that could rival a good blast of the Angelus; it was more that they were caged-out, so to speak.
Anyway, it’s evaporated, my well-tended phobia, disappearing in a puff of cheap aftershave when they were old enough to nuke their own pizzas and to start running with the spice-bag wolves.
Lifts? Easy, mate. Locking bathroom doors in public places? What, like in cafes and department stores and screaming bars? Well, yeah, nearly. I’m nearly there. I no longer pee perched on the edge of the bowl, with my foot jammed up against the toilet door, my fingers crossed and the word “vacant” inviting company. I’m making progress; it’s all coming along nicely. (And while we’re at it, and with thanks to everyone who inquired and sent their good wishes, my mother is making good progress too, albeit still on the faawth flaww.)
The elevator voice
I realised how able I was for elevator travel, how blasé I’d become, when I started actually noticing the elevator voice-over.
The disembodied voice emanating from the speaker, announcing the storey destinations to a lift full of pasty-faced Dubliners, would appear to have been recorded by a woman well-versed not just in elocution but also in jam-making, cream-clotting and twinset-wearing, as well as the finer points of gymkhana etiquette.
I’m sure she’s a terribly, terribly nice woman, and hell, let’s not dump 800 years of oppression on her doorstep just because she sounds like she’s presenting an awkwardly curtseying debutant to a grumpy monarch, enunciating, as she does, each storey with a subtle blend of self-deprecation and growing irritation, instead of just plainly telling us where St Mickey’s Ward is.
There is a smugness to her tone now, a priggishness, a tincture of conceit and self-satisfaction that’s beginning to rankle. A man with a complicated tattoo and the air of a shortened fuse about him (who also happens to be carrying a copy of a gossip magazine with an awful lot of Kerry Katona on the front cover) glances at the speaker as if he might just “thuud flaww” her right back.
I know her now. I know this woman. I recognise her voice. This is the same woman who tells you to “stand clear of the doors” when you’re travelling on the London Underground. She’s the one who says, “Baker Street – alight here for Madame Tussaud’s”, as if she actually think’s its a good idea. This woman actively encourages gullible people to spend good money looking at a waxen effigy of Cliff Richard when the real thing is so much scarier.
I used to do occasional voice-overs back in the day. They were a gift, every now and then; usually when I was deeply, deeply skint. The studio would phone and, roll-me-over-and-call-me-Susan, the rent would get paid that month.
Voice-overs tend to veer towards traditional interpretations of societal roles. I, for example, generally got cast in ads for feminine hygiene and cat food, rather than, say, sheep dip. I suppose the copywriters’ rationale was that no one would buy ringworm remover and fluke eradicator (do those products even exist?) from someone who sounded like they’d just woken up in the bath.
I think that in 2016, as a blow for self-determination in the centenary year of the Rising, we should revoice Irish elevators. You know, “First floor: for God’s sake, you should have walked it! Second floor: wouldn’t have killed you! Third floor: stay where you are, pet. Fourth floor: well, Jesus, I thought we’d never get here; what time is it at all, at all?”
Faawth flaww. Going down.