I ride one of the more than 400,000 elevators in the country virtually every day - one of 350 million passengers throughout the United States and Canada.

So I've been thinking about the down sides. And I don't just mean the obvious one - the fact that every time I get on one of these electric traction contraptions to be lifted and lowered by steel cables, I run the risk of being trapped in it.I've carried around that fear for most of my life, and two years ago it finally happened.

After an interview, I got on an ill-fated elevator that failed to open when it hit my floor. There was an emergency phone in it, which I used quickly, and I was lucky - the door opened after about 5 minutes.

Not bad. I had a friend who was once trapped in an elevator for 40 minutes - and a Deseret News employee was recently trapped in one for an hour.

So now besides checking every elevator for telephones and emergency buttons, I notice other things.

People are usually very uncomfortable on elevators. Even more so if there are a lot of people on it.

They get on slowly and carefully, watching their feet. Then they stand awkwardly, trying to figure out how to press the appropriate button without jostling someone else.

Once the deed is done, all eyes rise to the top to follow the lighting of the numbers suggesting that everyone is paranoid that they won't work properly.

Actually, they do this so they won't have to look at each other!

Between floors they reread the number of passengers and pounds (2,500) allowed on this elevator, and worry about whether that rule is being exceeded right now.

Except for a coffin, there is no other place in which people are regularly put in such a small space - which is truly frightening when placed with other people they do not know.

It causes stiffness and all kinds of irrational thoughts to race through the mind.

Then all is unbelievably quiet while the car travels to the appropriate floor. Each person gets off a little too fast, just thrilled to be there!

Sometimes a person trying to get on gets sandwiched by the overzealous doors closing precipitously. If that is accomplished without death, it is usually the first opening for a witticism about the dangers of this particular vehicle - one of those rare elevator ice breakers.

Then as it continues on to the next floor, everyone notices just a little more all the strange rumbling sounds that seem to indicate an archaic instrument out of control - and in need of immediate servicing.

What if the stupid thing just breaks and we all drop to our deaths?

Often I get on with a woman I don't know, and invariably she looks at me as the doors close as if I were a truly dangerous monster.

If I greet her, her nerves become even more jangled, and sometimes she even fails to respond. When we reach her floor, she races out with a visible sigh of relief.

Unless the doors close on her.

Actually, I try to dress in a reasonably respectable manner and I don't leer. On the other hand, I realize that some of the world's most dangerous people do in fact appear quite respectable.

Just like me.

What I'm getting at here is that the women who feel obliged to ride the elevator with me must have at least fleeting fears not only about the possibility of an elevator break down, but of being trapped in it with me!

This means that elevators are inherently more dangerous and more difficult for women than they are for men. Another example of the double standard.

Even though the elevator is the form of transportation that carries more people than any other, it strikes me that there is something ominous about it.

We would be better off if we resolved to burn some calories and get the much-needed exercise of running up and down the stairs - even if it takes a little longer.

How about an elevator boycott?