I teach at a relatively small school. We have one main building and one elevator that requires a key. You only get a key when you need the elevator because of medical reasons.
Unfortunately, I need the elevator.
And this school year, the elevator hasn’t been fully functioning. For several weeks, the elevator ran without lights. I resorted to carrying a flashlight with me while riding the elevator each day. Then, the lights were repaired, the elevator worked, and all was good.
It didn’t last.
For a month, the elevator didn’t work at all. I was told the problem was something electrical in nature, and the first repair-person called out wasn’t able to fix the problem. A new work order was placed. When we’re dealing with Los Angeles Unified School District, any school employee will tell you that repairs don’t happen in a timely, efficient manner. Finally, I received word that the elevator was working again. And for one afternoon, it did.
The following morning, I got to work, stepped inside the elevator and didn’t step out again until the fire department got me out. Being trapped in an elevator has always been one of my fears. Initially, I panicked, yelling, hoping someone would hear me. Most of my co-workers weren’t at work yet, and I wondered how long I would be trapped until someone found me. For the first time in my life, I attempted to send a text message. (I am a person who has always shunned texting, but with a weak signal, I couldn’t make or receive phone calls. Of course, my inexperience didn’t help; I couldn’t figure out how to put spaces between words, so my co-worker/good friend and husband each received messages that read: “stuckinelevator.”) Luckily, the emergency call box worked which allowed me to get in touch with someone who did contact my school’s office.
I felt infinitely better once people knew I was in there. Then there was just the small detail of getting me out. As more teachers arrived, word of my predicament spread. Teachers would greet me as they walked by the hallway, and for the most part, continue on with their morning business. Minutes passed and those doors remained closed. Thankfully, a good friend of mine had the common sense to call the fire department and ask for assistance.
The elevator hadn’t moved since I’d been trapped inside. The doors had simply closed and locked me in. For forty-five to fifty minutes.
By the time I got out, my hands were shaky and I felt sick to my stomach. I desperately hadn’t wanted to vomit in the elevator and feared I would.
Ten minutes after I was rescued, I began to teach.
Fifty minutes of quiet solitude, something I usually desperately crave, and I couldn’t even enjoy it. I sat on my jacket, leaned my head against the wall, and hoped that I would be helped sooner, rather than later.
Most of the time all I could think of was each moment. Will the power go out? Will I get sick? What if I have to use the restroom? What if I get an asthma attack? The “What if’s” weren’t helping so I had to stop that train of thought.
My emotions fluctuated - fear and panic (What’s going to happen to me? How long can I safely stay in here?), then anger and frustration (I have so many other things I should be doing right now). Later that night, safely home, I thought of the scene in a favorite movie, You’ve Got Mail, when Tom Hanks’s character is trapped in an elevator with three other people. They began sharing life-altering “If I ever get out of here...” statements. His life changed that night.
I keep thinking I wasted the opportunity. Was being trapped in the elevator supposed to be a sign for something? Was I supposed to have left the experience with a newfound sense of knowledge or wisdom about my life, or life in general?
I didn’t. Instead, I’m back to walking, slowly, up the stairs each day because although the elevator has supposedly been repaired, I don't want to be the guinea pig to to test it.
And, I’m contemplating getting a newer cell phone.