I have a fear of lifts. Not of elevators per sé, of course, but of the kind that tends to get stuck. The lifts in the building where my lab is situated are very scary. A couple of years ago, some springbokkies and chickens in the walk-in freezer upstairs at Animal Science defrosted over the Easter weekend. The resulting fetid soup leaked out of the freezer, across the hallway, and down the service elevator shaft, contaminating each floor on the way down. Apparently, the bacteria-basted chickens had swollen to the size of turkeys by the time somebody noticed something was awry. The mess has since long been cleaned up by a crew in space suits with sanitizing spray that smelled oddly pink, and yet the memory of the stench still prevents me from using the service elevator in the east wing.
The only other lifts in the building are situated in the west wing, and are very old. I suspect that they might well be the first ones Otis ever installed in South Africa. They must have worked superbly in the 1970's, but have become... erm, interesting with age. Often, when you're bent over your centrifuge tubes at your bench, faint cries of help from someone trapped in the lift will break your concentration. Sometimes the LED's indicate that you are on floor 3 when you are on floor 6, sometimes that you are on floor 15. The building has 11 floors. Sometimes the lift doesn't respond to any buttons you press. Sometimes the elevator doors open, and there is no lift. That's right: just a gaping black chasm to welcome you to sudden death, with cables and ratchets moving in the dark. Or the doors will open and the lift won't be level with the floor and you have to step down into it, like a little mobile crawlspace. I once called the lift to go down to ground level: when the doors opened it was there all right, but it just kept moving up, past my floor. Suddenly the doors slammed shut with enough force to sever any limb that would have been in their path. That's dodgy. So much for a safety precaution. So now I climb the eight flights of stairs to my floor several times a day. Not because I believe it to be a great workout. Because I have claustrophobia.