Thursday, September 29, 2005

On Top of The World

In the last seven years, I have been working with a splendid view of Quezon City and Marikina on my left. My (glass, ehem) office is at the 29th floor of the Philippine Stock Exchange Centre (also known as Tektite Towers after the street where it is located).

I know what you’re thinking; you’re thinking this guy must feel like he is on top of the world. Well, I used to think that working on a high rise tower would be cool but… not really. It has prestige, it has a good view . But it can get boring after a while. And it can get pretty inconvenient.

You see, no matter how "intelligent" the building might be (and Tektite is presumably an intelligent building, but with ADHD problems ) it is still puny when subject to the basic laws of nature.

First of these laws is the first law of nature: gravity. The higher you go, the more difficult it will be to bring stuff to you. If you forgot something from your car, or worse, from your house, it will take a while before you can get it to it. It won't be as easy as running to the parking in front.

And then there is the stuff of life - water. Sure, there are technological gadgets designed to supply water to the high rise buildings but when Murphy’s law operates, the high rise buildings are the first to be hit. And a building such as Tektite which has 34 storeys (technically, it is 33 because just like most buildings it does not have a 13th floor) is often hit by scarcity in water. When the water level is down, the dominoes fall - the aircon malfunctions, the elevators go kaput. And when these happen, it can be verrry inconvenient as a tall tower gets direct exposure to sunlight.

The second of these laws is that the higher you go, the more accessible you will be to the clouds and the farther you will be from reality. I mean this both literally and figuratively. Up on the 30th floor, when it rains, you see nothing but the mist. Watching the rain fall down can be a depressing exercise, but just hearing about it and not seeing it can be tragically depressing. When the clouds darken, you get a terrifying sight akin to that scary scene in the movie Independence Day.

And then there is the problem with the elevators. This building has 32 elevators. Yup, that’s right: 32, 16 on each tower. Eight elevators on each tower are assigned to serve the top floors – these elevators jump from the ground floor to 26th and then stops at each floor thereafter. Cool, huh. Wait.

Problem is, it can take time for an elevator to move from one floor to the next because passengers take some time to get on and get off. During mondays and heavy trading days (this is the stock exchange building after all), human traffic is so heavy that it can take forever to get to the office from the ground floor. It is during these times when one yearns for the usual one level government offices where you dictate the speed of your own movement from one office to another –either you walk or you run.

Tektite has a food court in the building that can rival that of Megamall’s. But tough luck if one hankers for banana cue, turon, storck candy or even Marlboros sold tingi (by the stick). In here, each hoards his or her own food supply. And yes, those TV advertisements about employees having instant mami noodles for a meal is for real. Those quick meals, along with chocolate bars and skyflakes biscuits are the three major food groups in high-rise buildings.

Being modern also means being politically correct. This building does not allow smoking within its premises. I think declaring a whole building as a no smoking zone is merely a copout. The answer is not in prohibiting people from smoking but rather assigning specific areas for smoking and putting in place air filter systems that eat up cigarette smoke. This is a sensitive subject in any discussion, one that automatically puts people into two categories: for or against.

The result? Either people sneak out to smoke in the bathrooms right under "no smoking" signs or they smoke at the lobby of the building. It’s a weird site to behold: people of all types and makes standing around gesturing with their Philip Morris’ and their Marlboros. Since I also happen to be an occasional smoker averaging 2 sticks a day on weekdays and a pack on weekends (which is a fitting subject for another blog), and being a person who hates conventions, I find this attempt at political correctness untenable.

And sometimes shit does happen. One day last year, the building’s electrical connections went haywire and they could not be fixed. It was the humpty dumpty syndrome come to life. The electrical engineers may be the best in the country but the system is computerized so no amount of human effort can work when the computer system has bogged down.

Guess what happened. We all walked down this dingy, dark, airless, narrow staircase all the way from the 30th floor to the groundfloor.

I tell you, that was one scary experience.

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