Enlarge / What do you push if you want solar panels? (credit: John Timmer)

For most of my adult life, I’ve lived in dense urban environments where elevators are a part of daily existence. During that entire time, I’ve had an elevator get stuck a grand total of once. Someone opened a small panel, pulled out what looked like a handset from an old rotary phone, and managed to get people dispatched to get us out. I was a little too distracted to ponder the technology involved then, and I haven’t had cause to think about it since.

Decades of ignorant bliss were interrupted this week when the emergency intercom on my elevator—now just a speaker embedded in the elevator wall—tried to get my attention. Because it wanted to offer me a great bargain on some solar panels.

After a brief, wonder-filled period when the Do Not Call Registry seemed to be like magic, telemarketers are back. It’s now rare for me to go a day without offers to help with the student loans I paid off decades ago or the credit card balances I studiously avoid having. I usually manage to hang up before the recording can finish its first sentence. But in this case, I stepped on to an elevator with a pitch in full swing and had to listen to it for six floors, not to mention the time involved in the doors opening and closing.

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