When the doors opened, the Little Voice Inside My Head said, “Wait for the next one.” But, since I’m typically oblivious even to obvious signs of danger, something as subtle as the Little Voice Inside My Head making a quiet suggestion about an elevator — when I was in a hurry AND illegally parked — didn’t stand a chance. (It’s remarkable that the Little Voice Inside My Head hasn’t gotten fed up and quit. Hours are bad; job satisfaction is low; pay is horrible. It really ought to resign and pursue more fulfilling opportunities — like joining a commune in a schizophrenic’s head or something.)
So, after telling the Little Voice to pound sand, I smooshed myself into the elevator, adding myself to the 13 other people who were already inside. “L” had already been pressed, so there was nothing to do but wait patiently for the gentle Ping that would signal that the elevator had uneventfully traveled the 15 floors down to the Lobby.
The little Ping never came…
In her stead, Little Ping sent Sudden Jerking Lurch Accompanied By Scary Sound That Signals Imminent Doom (hereinafter, the “Sudden Jerking Doom Lurch”). Even if you are not an elevator efficionado, someone skilled in elevator mechanics, or even someone who frequently gets trapped in elevators due to bad luck, a family curse, etc., even a stopped-elevator virgin will instantly recognize the Sudden Jerking Doom Lurch. It’s a visceral recognition. And it *is* just like what you see in the movies. One moment you’re mindlessly cruising down the elevator shaft, absent-mindedly waiting to get on with your life. The next, you’ve experienced abrupt deceleration and a disturbing rattling sensation, and your mindless little journey is unceremoniously replaced by a situation that requires your thought and attention. Not fair.
(Very few enclosed spaces are designed to comfortably accomodate 14 people on a 90-degree evening with 4000% humidity. Last night’s elevator was not one of those spaces.)
Now hovering in a state of suspended animation, several of my 13 new friends had interesting and insightful comments to offer on the situation:
New Friend One: “Jesus. We’ve stopped.”
New Friend Two: “Do you think we should call for help?”
New Friend Three: “I don’t have a signal.”
New Friend Four: “How about hitting the Emergency Button?”
New Friend Five: “Do you think we can pry the doors open, like they do in the movies?” (She was serious, and actually tried, until nearly chipping a nail proved too discouraging an obstacle to overcome.)
New Friend Six: “Hey, Joe, how’s your acid reflux?”
New Friend Seven: “We need to call Keanu Reeves.” [If you don’t recognize this reference to the movie “Speed”, stop reading. You are beyond my ability to help.]
New Friend Three again: “It’s hot in here.”
In the midst of the commentary, someone did manage to press the emergency button, which opened a series of voice mail prompts — which is EXACTLY what one wants to hear during an emergency…
Eventually, the Front Desk Person for the building responded:
“Hi, yeah, we’re 14 people stuck in an elevator.”
“I’ll try to find the Maintenance Guy.”
Whereupon, New Friend Eight made the following observation, with which I reluctantly agreed: “It’s Saturday night at 10:30 PM. The Maintenance Guy is sitting in Upper Darby somewhere drinking a beer.”
Suspecting that Front Desk Person’s ability to conjure up The Maintenance Guy might prove to be sub-optimal, the one New Friend With A Cell Signal (a signal that somehow managed to penetrate an elevator car, inside a shaft, inside a building) dialed 9-1-1.
[Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: “Wait a minute. This blog is supposed to be about scooters and motorcycles. How does this story relate to that topic? I want my money back. This is fraud.”
Here is the clear nexus to scootering: I rode my 50 cc to the building with the defective elevator. And I was illegally parked, and hoping that I wouldn’t get a parking ticket — you know, if I survived and stuff.]
“911. What is your emergency?”
“Oh, hi, thank God we got through,” said New Friend With a Cell Signal. “We’re stuck in an elevator.”
“How many of you are there?”
“13. No, 14. It’s really hot in here.”
“Is anyone sick?”
“Sick? Uh. No.”
“What are you doing?” I said, “Tell them someone’s sick! Tell them we’re all sick. Tell them we’re DYING for Christ’s sake.”
New Friend With a Cell Signal had hung up and reported to the group that the Fire Department would be dispatched.
Yeah, in two hours or something, I thought. “We all have anxiety about being stuck in here. Anxiety is a genuine, diagnosable medical condition. You could have said that we’re sick.”
“Yeah,” chimed in New Friend Nine. “Hell, I’d shit in the corner if it’d help get us out of here.”
And passed some more.
I learned that it was some dude’s birthday in the elevator, and that the elevators in this particular building consistently malfunction (but never this badly), and that I don’t enjoy being stuck in elevators with 13 other people on a Saturday night in 4000% humidity while wearing an armoured riding jacket…
Then, “Hello? Are you in there?”
“Yes!! Can you get us out??”
“Uh, yeah. Uh, the elevator is stuck between floors.”
And I thought, “I’ve seen Speed. This doesn’t end well…”
The voice continued, “We have to figure out a way to level it out first. When the elevator levels and the doors open, you should all step out.”
[That last part seemed self-explanatory. Had the voice ever liberated a trapped elevator only to have the refugees refuse to depart, overwhelmed by Stockholm Syndrome or something?]
And then, the voice disappeared.
“How do you think they level an elevator that is stuck and not moving?” I asked.
“Popeye’s up there with a wrench,” offered New Friend I-Lost-Track-of-the-Number.
Suddenly, the New Friend Standing Behind Me grabbed my shoulder and yanked me backwards.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Well, for when the Fire Department cuts the doors open. There might be sparks.”
“The Fire Department is NOT going to cut through the doors with the Jaws of Life.”
“How do you know?”
“My life is not nearly that exciting.”
I’m sorry to report: my life continues to be not nearly that exciting. Things get anti-climactic from here. We all continued to sweat. A lot. We didn’t need to punch out a tile in the ceiling and climb onto the top of the elevator to escape. We didn’t need to pry the doors open and climb up to reach an exposed floor while trying to beat the clock as brake cables snapped and dramatic music played. Keanu Reeves didn’t show up to counter-weight and raise the elevator using a large crane from a neighboring construction site. And we didn’t plunge to our doom.
We did briefly contemplate starting to sing 100 Bottles of Beer on the wall to see whether rescue people might work faster to make the dreaded tune stop. But a quick Risk/Benefit calculation revealed that there was greater danger that we’d just be passive-aggressively left in the elevator to die of starvation or heat stroke.
We could do nothing except wait for Elevator-Leveling to take its course.
When the bay doors eventually opened, we all departed the elevator as previously instructed (again, duh). There were several Fire Department personnel in the lobby holding large metal tools. One looked like the galaxy’s largest crow bar. The other two looked like nightmarishly large versions of the things that dental hygenists use to scrape tartar off your teeth (I think the tools are called The Gauger and The Scraper).
We thanked the Fire Department and asked how they had gotten us out. One of them said, “Oh, we didn’t do anything, actually. The Maintenance Guy showed up, went upstairs, and did something.”
(Sorry for the use of such technical jargon. Elevator mechanics lingo is pretty dense. I mean “did something” — you need a Ph.D. from MIT to parse that.)
Now that I think about it, we WERE in the elevator long enough for someone to put down his beer and drive in from Upper Darby…
And, for those keeping tabs on the key issue in all this (i.e., Did Completely Anonymous Person get a parking ticket?!?):
No. Praise the God-of-your-choice, she did not.