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Elevator study gives teen a lift
Aaron Stone is walking down the hallway of an office building, getting closer to the equipment he’s come to inspect.
“Notice how his speed picks up,” said his father, David, who had been keeping pace until his teenage son suddenly bolted ahead. “I think he smells ’em.”
Aaron’s on the trail of an elevator. He seems to know everything else about the devices, so it’s only natural that he’s got a nose for them as well.
The 14-year-old has spent three years visiting elevators in schools and parking garages, hospitals and hotels from Pennsylvania to South Carolina. He’s ridden to new heights on at least 30 in the Fredericksburg area.
As the elevator doors open, his camera is rolling, panning the inside to show ceilings and floors, panels and fixtures. He presses the “Door Close” or floor button repeatedly—something that drives his twin brother, Evan, crazy.
Then, as his Sony Cyber-shot documents the ups and downs of the ride, Aaron provides the commentary.
“I study elevators, I know how they feel,” Aaron said, admitting he does overdo it a bit with the buttons. “I like the way they press.”
Aaron, a ninth-grader at Massaponax High School, has posted more than 365 videos on YouTube of his elevator escapades and his interest in fire alarms.
His hobby of documenting the inside of an enclosure that takes people from one floor to the next may sound unusual. But there’s actually an active “elevator community” online that follows each other’s filming of all things manufactured by Otis or Dover, Schindler or ThyssenKrupp.
“Many people may consider it odd [but] the community is a lot more fun than it probably seems,” said Dan Allen, 17, who’s filmed elevators for six years and helps run two online groups for those who do the same.
He estimates that several hundred filmers post videos on YouTube.
Elevator enthusiasts share more than an interest in hydraulics and cables. Allen said many have Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. One trait of the syndrome is “a huge interest in one particular area,” added Allen, who lives in New Jersey.
He believes the Internet has given people with Asperger’s a forum they never had—and a community that embraces their specialized interests.
“It has turned into a social thing and gives many people friends that typically do not have friends in school,” Allen said.
When he first searched YouTube for elevator videos in 2007, Allen was surprised to find so many.
“I thought that I was the only person in the world who liked elevators,” he said. “Man, was I wrong.”
Aaron had a similar epiphany. He was 11 when he stumbled upon videos by Andrew Reams, a Roanoke man who’s considered the master of elevator filming. Known as “Dieselducy,” Reams has had 40 million views on YouTube.
Aaron starts his YouTube handle with his ZIP code and is known as “22408aaron.”
Aaron worked up the nerve to call Reams and the two started talking. Aaron’s twin enjoyed filming then, too, and after a few months of communicating, their parents—David Stone and Jane Nervo—took them to Roanoke to visit Reams.
“Aaron takes very good videos, he’s fun to hang around and he’s very passionate about what he does,” Reams said. “He knows more about elevators than any teenager I know.”
Fire alarms, too.
Aaron and Evan set up a full-blown system in the basement of their Spotsylvania County home with a control panel, metal piping and smoke detectors.
The only difference between it and commercial systems, their father says, is that it’s not linked to 911. That’s because Aaron likes to test the alarms regularly.
“I’m good at electricity, too,” Aaron said. “Dad knows that.”
“You haven’t burned the house down yet,” his father added.
Aaron is skilled with door security systems as well.
“Yeah, I have to punch a code to get into my own basement,” said David Stone.
Aaron also collects elevator parts and keys. Because he tends to hang around elevators, he’s been there when repairmen were working, and they’ve given him parts and pieces destined for the trash.
Aaron isn’t sure where this specialized interest will take him.
“I might become an engineer,” he said. “We’ll just have to see which way the wind blows.”
“Or which floor the elevator stops at,” his father added.
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425