I had a busy day today. Well, “busy” is relative; it was busy to me since being home on short-term disability. I had an appointment at 10:30 and then was going to scoot on over to my surgeon’s office to drop off some paperwork. Those two tasks required me to wear real clothes and put forth some kind of effort with my hair and face. So busy, you guys!
I head over to the 3-story office building that is conveniently located next to the hospital. The parking lot isn’t too crazy today; I actually found a parking spot in record time. I gathered the papers I needed and glanced at my cell phone. Decided to leave it because I would only be a minute. Why am I telling you this minute detail? You will see….
I walk across the parking lot and notice a food delivery van parked right at the door. There’s a guy bent over the seat behind the driver’s side, fixing his hands around a cardboard box. Must be a food delivery for an office. Never heard of the eatery on the side of the van. I made a mental note to look it up later.
With my keys and handy paperwork in tow, I bee-bopped through the lobby and headed towards the elevators. I think about taking the stairs briefly… but they are on the wrong side of the building. I press the elevator button and look up to see the food delivery guy coming in. We stand in silence together for a minute until the elevator chirps and the doors open. No one comes out. And it’s just us two going in.
“What floor?” I ask politely – because my mama raised a polite Southern Belle.
He replies, “Third, thanks.”
I press two buttons. The door closes and we start to move up.
Granted, we are only going to the second floor for me to get off first, so our journey isn’t too long.
The lights in the elevator flicker. They come on. They go off. They come on. And then they’re off. Like O-F-F, off.
It’s pitch-black. No light. Not a single light. I couldn’t see anything.
No worries – I’ll just use the flashlight on my phone.
Remember? I left my cell phone in my car.
Apparently my new friend, who we will call Sam, also left his phone in his vehicle.
Here we are. Staring into absolute blackness and wondering if the lights are going to come back on or if we are stuck. In an elevator.
We. Are. Stuck.
We both say something like, “Ugh! What is going on?”
I hear a voice outside the elevator door, “There is someone in there!”
She sounds way more panicked than I feel.
Should I panic?
Is this bad?
I don’t think I am going to panic.
It’s fine. It’s all fine.
I have a nice little exchange with a voice on the other side, and she says, “Ma’am….we know you’re in there. We are trying to get someone to help you. Can you use your cell phone to call 911?”
Sam and I laugh at this assumption that we had our cell phones. I tell the voice we do not have cell phones. Or a light.
Sam has a lighter in his pocket. And I have a mini-flashlight function on my watch. He lights up the elevator with the Bic and I jokingly say, “Oh man! Don’t you put off any smoke detectors in this thing.” He didn’t laugh at my obviously funny joke.
Instead, Sam reaches over and pushes the button on the elevator that says “PUSH IN CASE OF EMERGENCY”. You know that button? The one I have scolded my kids not to touch, EVER, unless there is an emergency. Like being stuck in an elevator. I always told my girls that the button would directly link you to 911. Well, guess what? That’s not what happened.
Sam & I laughed at each other when there was a ringing on the other end of the button. And then there was a recorded voice directing us to press a button for assistance. Well guess what, folks? There wasn’t a key pad. No phone receiver to pick up and talk into. Just the button Sam pressed, which is now flashing red. Another recorded voice in Spanish apparently repeated everything that was just said. I don’t know. Then….a recorded voice directs us to “please hold“. HOLD? Where are Sam & I going to go?
Then classical music started to play. Actual elevator music from the emergency call in our paralyzed elevator. Again, we laughed.
And sat down because we realized it might be a little while.
We sat in silence for a few minutes until a cheerful lady on the line says, “Hello, you’ve reached the call center for XXX Elevators. How can I help you?”
“We are stuck on one of your elevators,” I calmly say.
“Did you try to push the ‘door open’ button, ma’am?”….
Y’all. She was serious. I laughed. Because…really???
“We pushed all the buttons,” Sam says.
“Are the overhead lights on?” she asks.
“Nope, no lights,” we say.
“Is the door closed all the way?”
“Yep, the door is closed. No lights. Buttons not working. The power is out in the whole building,” we chime in.
We could hear some commotion outside the doors and were hearing bits and pieces of information. We knew there was an issue with a power pole; we didn’t know if there was an accident or if the construction out front accidentally cut the lines. Did it matter? Nah. We stuck, yo.
We are put on hold while Elevator Call Center Lady finds our location…and then we get disconnected. No worries. She knows where we are now, so she can direct someone to help us. Right? Right!
All during this time, we are also talking to people on the other side of the door.
They don’t have a key for the elevator. They don’t know what to do. They can’t open the door. They are very reassuring to us though, which was nice.
Thank goodness Sam and I kept our cool because that little steel box suspended by cables was getting pretty toasty and was starting to smell like the inside of a deli. I like delis thought, so it was fine. It was all fine.
“I have cookies. You want a cookie?”
I assured Sam I was fine and didn’t need a cookie.
A cell phone or elevator key maybe, but definitely not a cookie or chips (as he offered a few minutes later). Sam was a nice stranger to be stranded on an elevator with.
Trust me on this. I know…
Elevator Call Center Lady calls us back, which was weird. All of a sudden, there is a loud, “Skye???” coming from the elevator speaker. She informs us that she has alerted an elevator mechanic who is on his way, but will be about 30 minutes.
“Okay,” I thought to myself. “Thirty minutes is fine. It’s fine.”
Nah, Sam wasn’t having any of that.
He asks Elevator Call Center Lady to alert the fire department to come help.
She verifies his request – like he was kidding? YES, we want the fire department to come help us get out of this elevator. K, thanks!
More commotion outside the doors, as the staff is trying to evacuate the whole building. It sounds like chaos out there. Sam & I are just chillin’, no chaos in the elevator. Just blackness. And heat. And sandwiches and cookies and chips, too.
We chat a little, but not too much. We were listening to everything going on and trying to piece together what was happening. Every few minutes, someone would say, “Hello? Ma’am? Are you okay?” I would assure everyone that Sam and I were alive and well.
And then we just sat.
In the darkest dark I have ever experienced.
Sam and I discussed if we were between floors and I tried to decide how I would crawl out with my one useful arm and protect the one bum arm. You know, I was preparing for a disaster. Which thankfully didn’t happen.
(But I was prepared to eat all the sandwiches and cookies and chips. Carbs or not, this girl won’t starve.)
We heard some jingling, like keys or someone taking tools out of a toolbag. We saw some light come from the edges of the elevator shaft, like someone was shining a flashlight. The elevator moved slightly and then light started to creep in, slowly. The door was pried open and my God! It was so bright. I felt like I was staggering out of a tunnel and had been trapped for 3 weeks without food and water.
Alas, it was only 35 minutes or so.
I saw a sea of faces, one I recognized as a staff member at the doctor’s office I was trying to visit before I was stuck on an elevator with Sam and his sandwiches. She scooped me into the office, like I was traumatized and needed to sit down.
“I came here to drop off these papers and I am not leaving until I give them to someone,” I say as she ushers me through the waiting area of their office.
I saw Sam head towards the stairwell and attempt his sandwich delivery upstairs.
Bon voyage, Sam. I hope you have a wonderful life outside of the elevator. You were a great companion for 35ish minutes of my life.
The parking lot was full o’ fire trucks, ambulances, security, medical office staff – it was a scene, for sure. And no one was there asking for my harrowing account of surviving in that elevator – HA!!!!!
Oh. Seriously. I have to call that office tomorrow and verify that someone has those papers. They might have to meet me in the parking lot if they need anything or didn’t receive them. I ain’t going back in that elevator, y’all.
Just kidding. Yes, I will – but only because there are only 3 floors.
If it was 43 floors, I’m OUT.