Description: The five-story escalator, which cuts diagonally upward through the library, swiftly transports queues of patrons into the upper body of the building. But it only goes one way. Once crowded into the library's beautiful top-floor firetrap, patrons express bafflement about how to get back down. Hastily made lime-green signs direct people to the tiny elevators and the now-open emergency stairs, but they hardly help the confusion.
Hazards: Being stampeded at the bottleneck halfway up the ascent (there's a bizarre mid-point landing where patrons stop and scratch their heads and people pile up behind them); dismemberment, strangulation, and other tragedies associated with escalator technology.
2. GLASS ELEVATOR SHAFT & ELEVATORS
Description: The 10th floor offers a terrifying view down into the library's transparent glass elevator shaft, where a series of rubber belts and churning pulleys catapult the concrete-colored chambers toward you. On the Living Room floor, you can gaze up into the shaft as the gray butt of the elevator comes careening down toward your head. A ride on the elevators is a claustrophobic's chartreuse nightmare.
Hazards: Nausea, dizziness, sensations of smothering or choking, hypertension, a heart attack, and other symptoms of chromatophobia (fear of colors), cleisiophobia (fear of being locked in an enclosed space), bathophobia (fear of depths or sinking), and barophobia (fear of being crushed).
3. SMALL LOOKOUT NEAR 10TH-FLOOR ELEVATORS
Also known as: "the diving board," "lovers' leap," "suicide point."
Description: This lookout offers a vertiginous, stomach-churning view six stories down to tables, chairs, and concrete. The overlook sits at the terminus of a little-used corridor behind the elevator shaft. The only way out is back--or down. Late one recent afternoon, a dozen visitors who came upon it (many after whispering things like "There it is!") commented on the dizzying drop. "This is just too scary for me." "There's nothing between us and the floor." "I have to stop looking now."
Hazards: Panic attacks triggering disorientation, gastrointestinal distress, trembling, chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, sweating, and other symptoms associated with a variety of common and debilitating psychological disorders, including acrophobia (fear of heights); benign paroxysmal positional vertigo; a fall caused by a sudden sense of imbalance; a fall caused by one's willful desire to die; massive internal trauma to the body (including broken bones and exploded organs) caused by any such fall, resulting in death; the allure of a dramatic exit.
4. BOOK SPIRAL
Description: The library contains more than 17 miles of books, including Sniper: The Skills, the Weapons, and the Experiences, which we found sitting out on a table the other day.
Hazards: Ideas have never been safe or stable. They are as violent as the library itself. Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and Gandhi were men of ideas. Look what happened to them. (Also, if someone were to set the bottom of the book spiral on fire, the shape of the spiral itself would exacerbate an updraft, ensuring a smoky demise for patrons further up.)
5. RED MEETING ROOMS AND CORRIDORS
Description: A bulging muscle of molten red material hangs over the staircase to the library's fourth-floor meeting rooms, a series of closed-off chambers clustered around a frightening, red-lit labyrinthine corridor painted the color of coagulated blood. Red is an angry, alarmist color that inspires anger, violence, and passion.
Hazards: Hot flashes, tingling, rapid breathing, and irregular heartbeat, all of which are commonly experienced by subjects when exposed to red, as study after study has shown; disorientation and the feeling of being lost, since the walls, floors, ceiling, and light bulbs are all the same color; chromatophobia and its consequences.
6. AUDITORIUM STEPS
Description: One long step. Three short steps. One REALLY long step. And so on. To fuck with you while you're walking in the dark, these steps vary from 13 to 20 inches at unpredictable intervals.
Hazards: Tripping; falling; falling on someone else; breaking a leg, wrist, or neck; spinal nerve damage, resulting in paralysis; flailing like an ass.
7. FIFTH AVENUE ENTRANCE "CLIMBING WALL"
Description: Intrepid children have been seen sitting in the diamond-shaped spaces formed by the exterior steel structure that extends out over the Fifth Avenue entrance. The crosshatched design is structurally supportive and easy to climb.
Hazards: Falling to the cement walkway from a height of about 20 feet and breaking one's back or neck; having one's neck or back broken by someone falling on you from such a height; the illusion that the library is a toy for children, that it is motherly, avuncular, respectful, therapeutic, or supportive, when in fact it's a deathtrap.
Also known as: provincial strivers; gawking REI-clad yokels; homeless drunks; obscenely wealthy 39-year-old retired dot-comers with nothing better to do (see also REI-clad yokels); people desperately in need of reassurance that the world is not passing them by as they flounder in a vat of tapioca pudding labeled "Seattle"; the odd book lover.
Description: Patrons are easily identifiable, even outside the library's confines, by their breathless, incessant, near hysterical chatter about how rapturously wonderful the library is, or--and this is the truly terrifying part--how rapturously wonderful it is that real sophisticates in real cities are saying how rapturously wonderful the library is, thus confirming that the library must be extra-super-rapturously wonderful. A typical exchange: Patron A: "Have you SEEN the New York Times article? It was a RAVE!" Patron B: "Well, you MUST read the New Yorker piece. I almost DIED when I saw OUR LIBRARY in the New Yorker."
Hazards: Migraines caused by sustained proximity to these people; irrational gibbering; a complete loss of perspective; a desire to toss oneself, or shove someone else, from the small 10th-floor lookout.