I hate to sound like Andy Rooney, especially on Memorial Day, but...


 You can cringe over the media's Pavlovian penchant for lists and still love the June issue of Fast Company and its "100 Most Creative People in Business."


My favorites include Stephen Chau, 29, a former Goldman Sachs banker who moved to Google and discerned how to incorporate photos into online maps, giving us the wonderful Street View. Then there's Alexandra Patsavas, 41, the owner of Chop Shop Music Supervision, who has a knack for matching just the right song to the right scene in shows like "Mad Men" and "Grey's Anatomy."


 But what about a "100 Dumbest People in Business"? Even on this solemn day, I hereby nominate one.



There's somebody working for an elevator company whose clients include one of Chicago's fanciest combo commercial-residential buildings. It's the building at 680 N. Lake Shore Drive. Playboy Enterprises is in there. So are lots of doctor offices and well-to-do folks. There are nice shops and an upscale coffee joint on the ground floor, as well as a somewhat aging, high-end grocery called Treasure Island. There are great views of the city and Lake Michigan from up high.


The other day I had to drop off paperwork at my wife's obstetrician, following the birth of our second son, and discovered a dubious technological advance.


Gone was the seemingly tried-and-true system of hitting an up or down button next to an elevator, then awaiting one whose "up" sign (usually white light) or "down" sign (usually red light) above the door strongly suggested your next move.


Instead, there's a one-size-fits-all keypad way off to the side, where the prospective passenger (without any signage to explain same) punches in the number of the floor he or she desires. Then, a monitor flashes both that number and a letter.


Without signage, there's no possible way to understand that's what's playing out. A nice fellow employed in the lobby asked me my desired floor and then pointed me to an elevator as it was opening.


But when I exited the doctor's office three minutes later, I was lost. There was no attendant and no apparent keypad amid the elevator doors.


A lady who works in the building, and was grousing about having confused souls routinely enter her office for such assistance, pointed to a keypad, way off to the side of the six elevators. Feeling somewhat like I do with any Lego set purchased for my five-year-old son, I concentrated very hard and displayed the fruits of an elite Eastern education by touching the number "1."


Instantly a monitor flashed "E-1." I had no clue what that meant, and assumed I was to enter any elevator ("E") and go to "1." Nope. When I saw a door open 30 feet away, I yelled to the four folks inside, "You guys going down?"





A nurse who works on the floor surfaced and explained the system. That "E" meant one particular elevator. She pointed to the very small letters over each elevator door. I punched in "1" again, got "F-1" and was soon liberated.


Perhaps this is a major advance; a system which instantly assesses which elevator is going where and assigns you to the correct one. Perhaps the creator will one day work for Google or NASA.


For now, I remain nostalgic for the old up and down buttons and the red and white arrows. Of course, there has always been the confounding  matter of the "open" and "close" buttons inside those elevators. They never seem to work, do they?


Well, it is Memorial Day, a time of rest and solemn remembrance, so I'll head to our favorite neighborhood parade and definitely leave that one to Andy Rooney.



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James Warren is the Chicago editor of the Daily Beast/Newsweek and an MSNBC analyst. He's former managing editor of the Chicago Tribune. More

James Warren is a former manager, editor and Washington bureau chief of The Chicago Tribune. An ink-stained wretch, he's labored at The Newark Star-Ledger, The Chicago Sun-Times, and the Tribune in a variety of positions, including financial reporter, legal affairs reporter-columnist, labor writer, media writer-columnist and features editor. The Washingtonian once tagged him one of the town's 50 most influential journalists (he thinks he was 46, the number worn by Andy Pettitte, a pitcher for his beloved New York Yankees). He's a political analyst for MSNBC. He was recently publisher and president of the Chicago Reader, and is now policy columnist for Business Week and twice-a-week Chicago columnist for The New York Times (you can find his handiwork on the paper's website and on new Chicago pages produced for Friday's and Sunday's Midwest print editions by the nonprofit Chicago News Cooperative, which he held to start). A native New Yorker, he's a happy resident of the wonderful, if ethically challenged, City of Chicago, where he lives just north of decaying Wrigley Field with his Pulitzer Prize-winning wife, Cornelia, and their sons, Blair and Eliot. Blair's t-ball team is, yes, the Yankees.

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