Thursday, March 26, 2015

So that's what it's like to get stuck in an elevator. Hmm.

Sorry, Butt-head, according to Archer, that won't work.

It happened to Archie Bunker. It happened to Beavis and Butt-head. A couple of weeks ago, it even happened to the gang on Archer. And today, my friends, it happened to me. After a lifetime of riding elevators without incident, I finally had the experience of getting stuck on one.

Obviously, I got out alive and unharmed. I'm not blogging from inside an elevator car, in case you were wondering. My "ordeal" only lasted about half an hour -- perfect sitcom length -- and was not even that unpleasant. Disconcerting, sure, but not traumatizing. Anyway, here's what happened.

(Note: I use the word "happened" advisedly. Like most of my "stories," this barely qualifies as a series of events.)

My train into Chicago was actually running a little ahead of schedule, so I arrived at my place of business a good ten minutes early. I was actually looking forward to beginning my day in a leisurely manner, decadently sipping my artificially-sweetened tea without having to glance nervously at the little clock in the lower right hand corner of my computer monitor. I work in a 35-story skyscraper, so there are three big banks of elevators, and a whole mess of 'em seemed to arrive in the lobby at the exact same time.

I chose (unwisely, as it turned out) Car #3 simply because I could have it all to myself. For some reason, at 7:20am, I considered this a coup. Remember that Simpsons episode with the theme park employee greedily rubbing his hands together? "All for Silas! All for Silas!" That was me, Undisputed Lord God and King of the Elevator. I work on the fifth floor, so this should have been a short ride. Somewhere between floors 3 and 4, however, I had the sensation that my elevator car had just been hit by a Buick or possibly a Plymouth.

This was not entirely unexpected. The elevators in our building have been malfunctioning for the last few months, and reports of hapless riders getting stranded en route were common. But this time, it was happening to me and not some schmucks I don't even know. Therefore: relevant.

The elevator car came immediately to a stop. The "5" button was no longer lit. In fact, none of the buttons, including the blessed "Door Open," responded to my touch. The one button which did work was the one which contacted the security guard. A genuinely concerned-sounding woman told me that (by chance, I guess?) an elevator technician was in the building and would immediately start to work on the problem. She also asked if I was okay, which I thought was a nice touch. I said I was fine and thanked her.

From there, not having a copy of Hungry Hungry Hippos on hand, I had no choice but to play the waiting game. (Damn, that's my second Simpsons reference in one article.) It was weird and solitary, sort of Twilight Zone-y.

Does it add anything to my story that I've been repeatedly listening for the last few days to the soundtrack for John Carpenter's Dark Star, which includes a lengthy elevator-based suspense sequence? It's true. In that sci-fi comedy, set in the far reaches of space aboard a lonely scout ship, poor astronaut Pinback (Dan O'Bannon) is almost crushed by an elevator while trying to feed an uncooperative alien. Now, I was Pinback!

The "repair" process was halting and strange, from what I could tell of it. At one point, the power went out on the elevator, but this was very brief. The security guard -- who kept in fairly regular contact throughout the ordeal, bless her heart -- told me it was necessary for the technician to restart the elevator this way. None of the buttons were responding yet.

After a while -- and I deliberately refrained from checking my watch -- the elevator came back to life and started to move upwards, only to crash again. A few more minutes of silence later, the elevator started going up, up, way up, way past the fifth floor. I frantically pressed all the buttons. Nothing happened. This particular bank of elevators only goes up as high as the 12th floor, which is where the Car #3 finally topped out.

Then it started descending slowly, slowly, and very slowly toward the lobby. I had that "car crash" sensation again when Car #3 eventually touched down. When the doors opened (and this was not immediate), I was rather surprised to see that the elevator car was not flush with the floor. In fact, the lobby floor was about at waist level or so, and I would have to climb up to it. It would be sort of like climbing up on your kitchen counter, if you're trying to picture it, i.e. easier for a cat than a person. But, lucky me, there was a guy in a blazer who extended his arm to help me up and out.

Of course, I still had to get to work, so I thanked the man and got in the next elevator car over. Knowing the rules of television as I do, I half-suspected that this second elevator would stall, too. It didn't.

So today, I had the experience of actually living through the plot of so many sitcom episodes. Minus all the jokes and plot complications and so forth. Now, I'm hoping to get bonked on the head and get amnesia.

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