“the cigar” – a leader recalls his trouble shooting days

by Vivek Mishra

“This industry is like a bug. Once you get it in your blood you just have it”.

These are the wisdom words of one of my seniors showered upon me when I was just a toddler in the industry.

And this is true to the core, holding good even till today after more than 35 years.

Perhaps it will continue until eternity.

The journey has been exhilarating and rewarding….

I have seen people from various other industries switching companies even careers, at the bat of an eyelid, but rarely an elevator person leaving the fold once they are initiated.

I’m indeed very grateful to this field which has given so much to me – the opportunity to learn, travel, live on the edge, celebrate and rejoice.

Having held various positions and profiles in different elevator companies, I’ve found the journey to be challenging, joyous and financially rewarding.

During my career, I’ve had the opportunity to engage with the people from all walks of life. Internally on job sites with engineers, charge hands, even top executives. External to the organization, with politicians, police, judges and hoteliers, bureaucrats, doctors and real estate developers, to name just a few.

However, there have been those nerve wreaking moments, experienced whilst under the spotlight too.

I’ve had some very interesting experiences during this fulfilling career. One such time is worth elaborating here.

This happened when I was oven fresh, had just stepped into the ring.

Mystery and intrigue pursued ….

We had a maintenance job site with some 30 odd units in an army officer’s housing complex.

I was posted there to undergo service training, as a part of my orientation.

There came a callback at the dead of one winter night – a landing push button on the main entrance lobby was malfunctioning in one of the blocks.

Well, something of a routine nature, as was told by the site personnel. The fault was attended to, also on a routine basis.

It happened the next night around same time again in the same block. Again, it was attended to in the stereotyped manner.

And it happened yet again in the similar fashion, in same block for a third consecutive night, this time almost the same as the previous two night-calls.

By now the situation was attracting some attention, for my company as well as the client.

A thorough inspection revealed that the call buttons were getting burnt from outside with a hole in them.

These white/black/yellow and red colored, hard plastic/resin buttons were being used in those days as an industry standard.

Image is similar but not an identical button

Some more deliberation and analysis also pointed to a pattern with the timing of the calls.

Something smelled bad in the whole episode.

Being the newest and the youngest of the group, I was deputized on the fourth night, to stay at the scene and keep a vigil on the happenings.

Well, I did stay put nothing but significant happened, some officers and their families came back home early in the night, later that night and even very early morning as well.

Whoa, another similar call back! ….

There was no CCTV back then, so no trace of who came or went. Therefore, I had to depend upon my memory to rewind the mystery.

And it appeared to me like a flash of light. A lone officer had walked in around midnight, around usual time of the fault occurring. But how could he create a fault was a mystery.

I was at the job again the next night and the whole mystery unfolded.

An officer had recently moved in that building on a transfer. He would go to the club in the evening after work and had a few drinks and dinner. Then return home around midnight and before going into the block, would light up a cigar ….

…. which he would use, from the lit end, to register the call.

This created a hole and naturally destroyed the button, which in turn lead to the call back.

When confronted, he shrugged and remarked “the holes never happened back in London where I went for a training”.

And so, to my career learnings ….

A note from the host, Wayne

Thanks Vivek. I love these stories where we can all relate – a former time and place in our careers. I’m sure there are many of you sitting back reading this that can recall equally intriguing times and would love to share them. If so please go to the bottom of this page and complete the form. We love hearing about them just as much as we’re sure you would love to share them.

Until then …..