i got stuck in an elevator today.
it wasn’t a complete surprise. i think it was only yesterday that the elevator lurched violently as i passed the fifth floor on my way to our fabulous office penthouse on six (ahem). well, today, as ryan and i were making our way to lunch, the elevator lurched near the fifth floor again. the lurch was followed by the elevator stopping, the button for "L" going dark, and the sound of silence.
when it stopped, there was a moment of disbelief, followed by avid button pressing, followed rapidly by the sinking realization that yes, in fact, we were stuck. this was in turn followed by the realization that for some reason, neither of us had our mobile phones.
it just so happens that we stopped right near the fifth floor, and there were people waiting outside the elevator. after we stopped, we had an interesting muffled chat with the people outside the elevator:
them: "hey, what are you doing in there?"
us: "the elevator’s stuck."
them: "do you want us to get help?"
us: "um, yeah…that would be great."
them: "oh…ok…hang on."
i don’t know what i would have said had i been on the other side of that door, but i’m pretty sure it would have involved fewer rhetorical questions.
after 10 minutes of complete silence, we decided that their promises for getting help were somewhat exaggerated, so we decided to use the elevator phone. very exciting. i’ve always looked at these phones and wondered, "what happens when you make a call on one of those things?" let me tell you, it’s a once in a lifetime experience.
i pushed the button to make a call, and within about 15 seconds, a polite woman was on the line. another surreal conversation ensued:
her: "hello, can you tell me the address you’re calling from?"
me: "615 battery street"
her: "are you currently stuck in an elevator?"
her: "are the doors closed all the way?"
her: "did you try pushing any of the buttons for the other floors?"
me: "(long pause) um…yeah. yeah, we did that. first thing we did, in fact."
her: "how about hitting the Open Doors button?"
me: "yep, we hit that, too. nothing happened."
her: "what floor are you on?"
me: "i think we’re pretty close to the fifth floor."
her: "ok, just let me put you on hold for a second, and i’ll call a technician to come over and get you out, ok?"
me: " that sounds great."
her: "ok, just one second…"
we then heard a click on the line, followed by some pretty bland hold music. yeah, you know what kind of music i’m talking about: elevator music. after about 3 minutes of this, the music went away and the phone disconnected.
now, just to the right of the phone, there was a small, circular red indicator lamp. during the call, it was lit like rudolph’s nose, lighting the way to our freedom. when the phone went dead, it went out. just above this lamp, it said, "WHEN FLASHING, HELP IS ON WAY."
it never flashed.
in fact, nothing happened for about an hour, and then all of a sudden, the elevator started up and went smoothly to the lobby, and there we were, blinking like office moles who’ve been underground for too long. it was good to breathe fresh air after an hour in that elevator, good to see the sun, and even better to get lunch.
so, a few words of advice based on this experience:
- always carry your mobile phone, because you never know when you’re going to get stuck in an elevator. a clif bar in your pocket might not be a bad idea, either.
- if someone is stuck in an elevator and you’re outside, avoid asking overly rhetorical questions.
- if you work for an elevator emergency service, please change your hold music to something that’s a little less like elevator music so that people like me can’t make bad jokes.
- even if the red light isn’t flashing, it doesn’t mean that help isn’t on the way.
NOTE (08.24.05): I learned at work today that the fact that we got out as quickly as we did had nothing to do with our call for help. the elevator repairman who let us out had apparently stopped by on a whim, since we had been having sporadic elevator problems. so, in fact, help wasn’t on the way, and yet we got it anyway. i’m not sure whether i should be troubled or concerned by this revelation.