If It Ain’t Broke . . .

My last night away from home was spent in the Los Angeles Airport Hilton. The elevators just off the lobby now work differently since my last stay here. Evidently someone thought it would be a good idea to improve a system that has worked fine for probably 50 years: you press the “UP” button; the elevator doors open; you step in and press another button; the elevator delivers you to the floor where your room is located.

 Not any more. At least not at the LAX Hilton. There is now a small electronic display panel by the bank of six elevators just off the lobby. You use it to enter the floor you want and the display then tells you which elevator will take you there . . . elevator C, for example. When the doors to Elevator C open and you step inside, the elevator already knows you’re going to the 10th floor.
Slick? No . . . not really. Because a newly registered guest with a room on the 7th floor has just come running up, sees an elevator with its door open and quickly steps inside. But this elevator won’t stop at the 7th floor. And there are no buttons to push inside the elevator anyway. So the poor confused guy has to ride all the way up to the 10th floor and all the way back down to the lobby, and try it all again. (Yes, he could tap 7 on the display up there on the 10th floor, but would you have it all figured out that quickly? I wouldn’t.
I also watched other guests use the display to call for an elevator, but then automatically step into the first elevator that opens its doors. At the Hilton, the odds are six to one it’s the wrong elevator.
And with a number of other hotel guests milling around trying to get to their rooms, one confused old guy forgot which elevator the display had just assigned him. OK, OK . . . yes, it was me. Fortunately, I wasn’t embarrassed because the other people there had just checked in and didn’t notice. They were also absorbed with trying to figure out the new system.
I will concede that after a couple of trips up and down you do learn this new drill. But you still have to explain it all to the confused people who walk into your elevator and can’t figure out where the hell the damn buttons are or why it only stops at the 10th floor.
Like many of the so-called innovations these days, it ain’t better, it’s just different.