Sitting all day on a three-legged stool with only a pocket book to ease boredom while waiting for people to get on and off the elevator probably would not qualify as a dream job.

But for Melody Campilla, her 18 years as UST’s resident “elevator lady” has been quite a ride.

At 38, Melody has probably seen them all, university life unfolding right before her eyes in that cramped lift she first operated at the UST Hospital in 1990.

She’s seen relatives pounding the heavens for a sick loved one, doctors speaking in alien tongue over a familiar disease. And yes, she’s seen cadavers, too.

But nothing beats the friendships she’s forged with people who have found comfort in her presence.

The elevator also led her to Nestor Campilla, her husband for 17 years now. They would see each other every day each time Nestor, a janitor, would sweep the floors of the hospital.

“I did not know that he already had a crush on me,” she recalls.

Life was tough for the couple, but together, they were able to raise a decent family.

Melody and her husband take turns in watching over their kids. After Melody’s shift, her husband goes to work on a nightshift while she takes charge of her kids’ homework. In the morning, her husband accompanies their children to school.

Melody knows the value of education. She used to take up a short computer programing course while starting out as an elevator operator. But somehow, she got stuck to getting people a “lift.”

Not that she minds it, especially when she gets to serve the prime movers of UST education. She still takes pride whenever she, through her seemingly monotonous job, serves Rector Fr. Rolando dela Rosa. She’s been working at the main building’s elevators for the last seven years.

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Extra income

The job of an elevator operator comes with its own hazards. Fear engulfs Melody whenever she gets trapped in the elevator during emergencies, blackouts or technical failures. Who wouldn’t?

There was an incident when Melody was trapped inside the elevator for 30 minutes because of power failure. She had no choice but to wait for a technician to help her get out.

“Despite years of operating the elevator, being trapped inside never fails to scare me. I always get nervous whenever the elevator malfunctions because there is no exit, and mobile phones fail since the walls block cellular signals,” she said.

But this sociable elevator lady easily shakes off her worries whenever she has a companion in the elevator.

“I always feel glad when I have someone to talk to here in the elevator. But if there is none, I read pocketbooks to get rid of my boredom,” she said.

Her monthly salary ranges from P9,000 to P9,500 based on the minimum-wage rate, which she admits is not enough to raise a family of four. Faced with today’s economic slowdown, Melody and her husband opted to be more practical by selling sweet corns for additional income.

She sells sweet corns in the different departments in the Main Building before timing in for her 10-to-6 duty six times a week.

A P180 to P200 daily profit may seem small, but no amount is worthless amid the rising cost of commodities.

World in four corners

I once had the chance of riding Melody’s elevator after my appendectomy operation at the UST Hospital last February.

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Even as a recovering patient with only a week of rest, I opted to resume as a College of Science student (Science is located at the third floor of the Main Building) because of the mounting load of work. I could not use the grand staircases yet so I acquired a pass to use the elevator.

Inside the elevator I felt a little nervous, thinking that it would collapse because it looked old and weary, but soon found it safe and more convenient than trailing the long and winding stairs of the Main Building.

Time passed but the people boarding the elevator never seemed to run out. They came in and out, exchanging little gestures of greetings among themselves. Some avoided eye contact by looking at the walls or at the floor.

But almost all the people riding the elevator never failed to greet or chat with Melody. Her presence gave comfort amid the cramped environment inside of the four-cornered space.

I could not help but wonder how she could stand the wobbling crane and the crowding people for eight hours. Even I was already feeling dizzy and a bit sick after spending 20 minutes in the elevator.

“I do not know how I was able to last this long. Sanayan lang talaga siguro (maybe I just got used to it). I did not even realize that I am already in my 18 years of service until you asked me a while ago,” she said.

Indeed, her elevator job has given her a lift, too. It may not be the most attractive of jobs, but UST life won’t be the same without people like her.

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