I got trapped in an elevator.
You know, logically, that you can’t predict how you’ll react in certain situations. Until you’re facing down a bear in the woods, for example, you can’t know whether you’ll actually remember to make yourself bigger and louder in order to scare the bear away. Maybe you’ll just freeze. And then, whomp whomp, you’re bear food.
Sometimes we surprise ourselves. Like I did tonight when I got trapped in my apartment building’s elevator.
This has been a fear of mine for a long time. I think I’ve probably been afraid of being trapped in an elevator since the first time those big shiny doors closed in front of me when I was a little kid, enclosing me in a giant box that may or may not arrive at its proper destination. But that has never stopped me from using the elevator, because stairs.
Lately, I’ve been on a bit of a health kick, and I’ve somehow managed to lose more than 40 pounds. Yay, me. This fact, however, does not change the reality that my yappy little dog is kind of a jerk to other dogs. Since he’s known for being a loudmouth and I don’t want my neighbors to hate me, I take him down for his thrice-daily potty breaks in the elevator. Sometimes we come back up the stairs if I’m feeling confident that there’s a low probability of someone coming out in the hall with their own furchild.
At 10:15 P.M. on Saturday, September 16th, I put on Bingley’s leash and took him to the elevator. The elevator in my building is what my neighbors and I kindly call “vintage” and my friend Molly called “a death trap.” It’s got one of those sliding gate doors that slams loudly. It’s the kind of elevator you’d see in the Tower of Terror (R.I.P.), basically.
So we get into the elevator like we do every night around this time, and I hit the button for the first floor. (We’re on the fourth floor.) The elevator started to move, because it was going to do its goddamn job like a good elevator, and then it stopped.
And I had a moment of blissful confusion. I’m pretty sure I made this exact face, like some kind of precious little dog who had no idea what was about to unfold:
I wonder to myself “Is the door not closed all the way?” Sometimes if the gate doesn’t shut all the way, the elevator won’t move. But then I remind myself that the elevator had in fact moved down about four inches (obligatory “six inches if you ask a man” joke). So I open the gate and give the door a push. Locked.
I give the gate a good slam to see if it’ll trigger the elevator to move.
My dog, who is very used to the “Get in when the gate is open, get out when the gate opens again” routine, was very confused by my seemingly irrational behavior.
It was around that moment that I realized I didn’t have my cell phone with me, because I try not to let the thing be glued to my hand. Why would I need it on a 5-minute trip outside for my dog to do his business? Well, lesson learned. Always take the phone.
I pressed the buttons for the other floors in my building in the blind hope that maybe the elevator would decide to go to one of them.
Spoilers: It didn’t work.
Now, if you recall my post about cutting my finger while washing dishes last year, I don’t like to inconvenience people. So even though I could see the Emergency Call button right there, I decided I should verify that I was definitely trapped before calling for reinforcements. So what did I do? I tried all the things I’d already done, but… one more time. And then once more, because sometimes the third time’s the charm.
I was still trapped. I hit the Emergency Call button.
I was prepared to laugh nervously and say that I was stuck in the elevator with my dog. I was not prepared for the button to not work.
That’s right: The Emergency Call button did not work in the event of my emergency.
I opened the gate, propped it open, and started knocking.
But — because I’m always nervous about inconveniencing people — I didn’t knock too loudly. Apparently, in my brain, I couldn’t annoy my neighbors at 10 on a Saturday night… even though I was trapped in the elevator.
Don’t ask me, I have no idea why this was a thing I was worried about.
I had been knocking with increasing loudness for about 10 minutes when my next door neighbor came home (I heard someone coming up the stairs; the stairs in my building are extremely noisy, which is another reason why a lot of us choose the elevator). I think she was confused about the source of the knocking, because it took her a minute or so to come and investigate, but when she did, she immediately went to pull on the door.
“I’m stuck,” I said, as if she’d think I was just hanging out in the elevator with my dog on a Saturday night.
I explained that I’d hit all the buttons I could find, but nothing was happening. She asked if she should call our landlord; I reminded her that he was on vacation until tomorrow. Then I asked her if she knew the emergency maintenance number. She did not. I didn’t want to ask her to go down to the first floor to find it, but we both agreed that it was probably hanging on a sign down there somewhere. She said she’d be right back.
Another ten minutes went by, and then people started to investigate why the elevator wasn’t coming when they called it.
My downstairs neighbors, who are sweet and amazing, came upstairs when they realized the elevator was stuck. They certainly didn’t expect to find a person in it; they thought maybe the door just hadn’t closed all the way and the elevator had paused until someone shut the door. I informed them that the door was, in fact, very shut.
The two of them kept me company for a few minutes, and then we were joined by another neighbor from a lower floor who had also come to see where the elevator was.
At this point, I started feeling like I was an exhibit at the zoo.
Thankfully, my neighbors were happy to keep me company for a little while. It took a few more minutes for the original neighbor to come back and tell us that she’d gotten ahold of the emergency maintenance man, but he didn’t have a key to the elevator room. He’d have to call our landlord. He estimated it’d take him 20 minutes to get here.
Spoilers: It took 30.
In that time, we talked about how my two downstairs neighbors are getting married next weekend (My sage wedding advice? “Well, if you want to be on time to the ceremony, maybe take the stairs”), about all of our dogs and how mine is both the smallest and the loudest, and about how it was really only a matter of time before someone got trapped in the elevator.
And of course it was me. I’ve been having a crappy month so far; September needed to kick me when I’m down.
My neighbors are pretty great — they asked if Bingley was okay (he was antsy and occasionally barking, which is… very loud in an elevator), they asked if I was okay (I wasn’t panicking, thankfully), and they asked if it was too hot or too stuffy. I honestly think that if I had shown any real sign of distress, they would’ve gone and gotten a screwdriver and taken off the entire door in order to get me out. Or they would’ve called the fire department.
As it is, about 45 minutes after initially setting foot in the elevator, I heard someone echoing around below, and I knew the maintenance man had arrived. He turned something on and off again, but alas, that did not fix it. A few minutes later, he came huffing up the stairs, and my neighbors clapped for him as he ascended the final stairs.
“This building has a lot of stairs,” he said.
“That’s why we take the elevator!” said my downstairs neighbor.
Everyone laughed, and he came over and unlocked the door with his fancy elevator key, which I assume he acquired from my landlord. If that’s the case, I’m very, very glad said landlord was home from vacation and I didn’t have to sleep in the elevator until he got back.
“Needless to say,” he said to my neighbors once Bingley and I were safely out of our cage, “the elevator is out of order.”
Bingley excitedly greeted everyone sitting in the hall, as if they’d assembled entirely so he could get some late-night pets. Then we all bid each other good night, and Bingley and I went outside so he could have a very overdue pee.
At the end of it all, it wasn’t as bad as I’d built “trapped in an elevator” up to be in my mind. Maybe things would’ve been more dire if I had spent more than ten minutes trying to get someone’s attention; maybe I would’ve stayed chill even if I had to start yelling.
But we’ll never know… because I’m definitely not taking that elevator again anytime soon.