Q. What happens if an elevator is overloaded?

A. It depends on the age of the equipment, says Horace Stillman, chief elevator inspector for the District of Columbia. If the elevator is 30 or 40 years old, it could possibly slide into the pit, but it wouldn't drop suddenly. If it is newer, it might stop "out of level" with the ground floor.

Q.Will constant use of high-rise elevators affect my hearing?

A. It is unlikely to cause a permanent problem, according to Washington-Bethesda ear, nose and thoat specialist Dr. Jerold Principato.

"Whenever there are substantial increases in air pressures, such as what happens on rapid descent in an elevator, the muscular activity of the eustacian tube is impaired. Hence, the tube cannot open adequately and there results negative pressure. This vacuum in the middle ear creates the transient feeling of ear fullness, pressure and noises such as crackling and popping."

Q. In case of fire, wouldn't the elevator be faster?

A. It would be unsafe, says firefighter Thomas Smoot of the D.C. Fire Department. The heat from the fire would have the same effect on the call button as your hand.

If you were in the elevator, and fire destroyed the call button, you would be signalled immediately to the floor of the fire.

(There is, however, much less chance of this happening today: A firefighters' elevator key switch has become mandatory for many buildings. The switch causes the elevator to go express to the lobby.)

Q. Is there always enough air in an elevator?

A. Since the shaft through which the elevator car travels is vented to the outside, there should be enough air, says inspector Stillman. The elevator car itself is never airtight.

Q. What does it mean when an elevator gets stuck?

A. An elevator has many mechanical and electrical safety features, says Stillman. If it stops, that usually means there is an electrical or mechanical failure in operation of the elevator and one of the safety features has shut it down.

It is almost impossible for a stuck elevator to drop to the bottom floor, says Stillman, adding that this is the concern most often expressed.

Sometimes, he says, it's passengers who cause a stuck car. Angry ones have been known to kick the car, which can dislocate the doors and stop the car from functioning.

Q. The fastest moving elevators in Washington?

A. Probably the Capital Hilton's which operate at a speed of 700 feet per minute.