Yesterday afternoon, I went to Starbucks hoping to get a quick cup of coffee. Realizing now that the words “quick” and “Starbucks” are anything but synonymous, I ended up leaving the coffee shop, empty handed and headed back to my office to finish up the remainder of the day.
I work in a decently sized building in the Columbus Circle area. It’s not a huge skyscraper, but it’s also not a three-story-walk up. It’s somewhere in-between. And that also goes for the age and style of the building. It is not modern, not chic, and the doorman just sits at his counter, welcoming people and offering directions. “The dentist? 5th floor. Have a good day.”
Him and I are “buddies” if you will. We occasionally shoot the shit, whether it be about the days of the week (“Ah, it’s Monday again) or about the weather (“Ah, it’s rainy again), him and I seem to have a good rapport. So good, in fact, that he invited me to his family’s BBQ on the 4th of July. I didn’t end up going, of course, but it was nice that he invited me, the sharply dressed guy who works on the 6th floor.
When I got back to the office building, not ready to go inside and back to work yet, I decided to partake in a quick smoke. I don’t normally smoke throughout the day, but I figured what the hell. It will give me a few minutes to relax and check my Instagram (Grindr) account. When I was done with my Marlboro Light, I headed in through the extremely heavy front doors to my building, gave the door man a head nob and pushed the button for the elevator.
“On your left” he called, informing me that the next available elevator had arrived, in case I didn’t hear the “ding” that came with its arrival. “Thanks,” I said back. I got into the elevator and pushed the button with the “6” on it and leaned against the side of the elevator, continuing to scan through Instagram pictures (Grindr profiles).
When I passed the fifth floor, something strange happened, but I didn’t think twice of it at first. Fifteen seconds later, when the elevator doors ceased to open, this is when I started to notice something was off. I looked up at the LED screen and saw that the number “6” was blinking, yet nothing was happening.
I waited another fifteen or so seconds and then pressed the “Call to Speak” button. Never having pressed this button before, I did not know what to expect. Who, exactly was I calling to speak with? And more importantly, did this button even work? Well, it turned out that it did work and that it called the maintenance department.
“Hello, are you stuck?” he asked, with a sense of sarcasm.
“Yes,” I replied, trying not to make my voice quiver. “I am stuck in the elevator.”
I let go of the “Call to Speak” button and waited on my instructions, but all he responded with was, “Can you hear me?”
I pressed the button again, and a little bit louder, I yelled that yes, I could hear him and that I was stuck in the elevator. But, once again, all he replied with was “Can you hear me?”
Frustrated, I pushed the button one last time, raised my voice a little bit louder, and said, “Yes. I can fucking hear you. Can you please get me out of here?”
“Help is on the way,” was all he said.
I stood there, trying not to panic, and reached for my cell phone to see if I could text someone in my office. Naturally, I did not have service, but I stood on my tippy-toes and raised my phone as high into the corner as I could, thinking this would make a difference. It didn’t. Below is a detailed account of the time I spent trapped in this elevator – 45 minutes to be exact.
4:03pm: The man on the other end of the speaker, the man I had just yelled at, asked me what office I worked in so he could call them and tell them I would be “a little late coming back.”
4:05pm: I sat down on the floor of the elevator in the back corner and decided that I should just play a game of Candy Crush to take my mind off of the fact that I was trapped in a 3 foot by 3 foot metal box. I swiped those colored candies as I hummed the theme song, but it didn’t distract me. Not even a little bit.
4:09pm: Still playing Candy Crush. Still humming the theme song. Still freaking out.
4:12pm: I hear my boss’ voice from somewhere beyond the elevator doors. “James? James? Are you in there?” he yelled. “Yes! Yes, I’m here!” I screamed with joy. I never thought I would be this excited to hear his voice. “Someone will be there shortly. Call the office if you need anything.” I checked back at my phone and say my phone went from “Searching…” to “Shit out of luck.” I went to the door and yelled back, “I have no service!” but there was no answer. He must have went back inside.
4:15pm: I am pissed off. Not just because I am stuck in this elevator, but by the fact that I have been on this same level of Candy Crush since June, and I can’t beat it. No matter how many power-ups I use or how many lives I have to buy, I cannot for the life of me, get past this level. I grow frustrated with the game and close it out.
4:16pm: I figured now would be a good time to take a “I’m trapped in an elevator but my beard looks good” selife. As for any good selfie, at least 7 need to be taken so you can choose the best one.
4:21pm: 5 minutes later, I now have over 60 pictures I have taken of myself from every angle and every corner of the elevator. None of them were Instagram-ready.
4:22pm: I wonder if the camera in the elevator works. Can they see me? Is someone in the basement watching me right now? Are groups of people down there, with bags of chips, watching me take pictures of myself?
4:26pm: I hear the man from the speaker box. “Hello, how are you?” he asked me. “I’m okay,” was all I could think to reply with. I didn’t want to appear like a baby, but I also didn’t want him to think I was enjoying myself. “Okay” got that point across. “The elevator mechanic will be here in a few short minutes. Do you need anything?” “A dry martini would be nice.” He didn’t respond.
4:33pm: The elevator mechanic has arrived. I can tell, because I hear a man on the other side of the door that said, “Hello, I am the elevator mechanic.”
4:35pm: I begin thinking of life and death. Is this it? Is this how I die? From being stuck in an elevator? I always thought I was going to leave this earth in a dignified way, not plummeting down to my death.
4:36pm: Will I ever see the sun again? I think to myself. Or my family and friends. What I would give to make them laugh just one more time.
4:37pm: I am never going to know what true love is. I came close, in high school, but that doesn’t count. I spent so much time over the years, dating and trying to impress guys and giving handjobs – for what?
4:39pm: I hear something banging against the elevator door. I stand away and try to imagine how they are going to get me out of here. I realized that I was trapped between the fifth and sixth floor, and now I am beginning to panic about my rescue. Are they going to have to pull me out of the elevator? Like they do in the movies? What if I fall? What if the elevator falls and cuts my body in half. I need my lower half.
4:41pm: I hear voices. More than one. It’s the elevator mechanic and my co-worker. I hear her asking him what he is doing and him responding with, “Trying something…” Trying something? What do you mean? Isn’t this like…day 2 of elevator mechanic school? Day 1: Introduction to Elevators; Day 2: How to Get Someone Out of an Elevator; Day 3 – Graduation. While I am thinking about this, I hear my co-worker say, “Oh my God…” What? What Oh my God? What’s going on up there? The banging against the door has subsided for a few seconds, and then I hear the mechanics voice say, “Oh! I have an idea!”
4:42pm: I open up the Notes section of my iPhone and draft a letter to my parents. I try not to cry as I type out my last good-bye to them.
4:42pm: My iPhone keeps auto-correcting “dying” to “tying” and it is frustrating me.
4:44pm: The elevator moves. First it went down a few floors and stopped. I froze. Then, it started lifting back up. “3…4…5…6…” I see the elevator passing my floor and now I think this is something out of Tower of Terror. It is going all the way to the top and then plunging down to the basement. I crouch down in my best “I think I could survive this” position and close my eyes.
4:45pm: The elevator stops and makes a “ding” noise. I see that I am on the 8th floor. The doors shake for a few seconds and then release, opening me up to the world. I burst out of the elevator like I had been trapped in a cave for 6 years. “Freedom!” I exclaimed.
When I made it out of the elevator, there was a tiny old lady waiting to get on. When I burst out of the elevator, she looked at me, curiously. “DON’T GO IN THERE!” I screamed. “I was trapped in that elevator for over an hour (okay, so I exaggerated a tad). It’s a death trap. Take the stairs. I beg of you!”
I went to the staircase hallway and ran down to the 6th floor. Naturally, the door was locked. I banged and pounded on the door for one whole minute. Finally, I heard footsteps, and then a voice. It was my boss. He stood up to the door and goes, “Who is it?” trying to be funny.
“It’s me! I escaped! I’m free!”
He opened the door and welcomed me back. While walking towards the office, the elevator bank made a “ding” and the door to MY elevator opened. And who was inside? The little old lady: a daredevil.
I sat down at my desk and, since I finally had service, I checked my phone. Nothing. Not one missed call, or text message, or even an email. Somehow, I realized, that while I was trapped in the elevator, other people’s lives had managed to move on.
Ten minutes later, my co-worker walked into our office holding an 8-footlong stick and a scotch tape dispenser. “You made it!” she said, waking towards me with open arms.
We parted from our hug and I said, “that was the scariest moment of my life.” I then looked back at the contents in her hands and said, “What’s that?”
“The elevator mechanic asked if we had something long and stick like, so I found these two sticks in the storage room and then taped them together so it would reach you.”
“THAT’S how he planned to get me out? A stick held together with tape?”
She put the stick and the tape dispenser down on the desk and told me about this mechanic. “He came in holding a wrench and a hammer. And that’s it. I think they just found him on the street.”
I thanked the Lord that, for whatever reason, the elevator began moving again. I thanked everyone in my office for being so supportive and helpful during this stressful time. My boss, then, called me back into his office and asked, “Were you screaming in the elevator?”
I shook my head no. “I mean, I did yell a little bit. But I wasn’t screaming. Why?”
He called his voicemail and put it his phone to my ear. It was the man from the speaker in the elevator. “Hi there, this is Sam from the front desk. I just wanted to let you know that one of your employees is trapped in the elevator, but don’t worry, we’ll get her out soon.”
Now, there have been many times throughout my life where I have felt emasculated (dodge ball, kickball, table tennis) but this was a new low. I am a mature 27 year old man with a range-appropriate voice. Sure, when I was a kid I would answer the phone and the telemarketers would always say, “Good evening, Mrs. Lane” but I thought I – and my voice – had grown out of that.
My boss and I shared a laugh, which only lasted six seconds before he told me to get back to work. I sat back at my desk and stretched my legs, knowing that I would be taking the stairs for the next few days.