Thursday, August 19, 2010
A Lift... and a Slam
I had a doctor’s appointment the other day. No big deal, right? Just one of those ‘maintenance’ issues which needed to be addressed. Every once in awhile the trim on my temple needs to be scraped and repainted, that’s all. I drove the forty-five miles to Waterville, locked my teenage boy in the truck with his Game Boy and with stern instructions regarding the consequences of taking Mum’s truck for a joy ride at thirteen years of age.
I entered the office building and looked at the large sign on the wall which told patients where each doctor’s office was located. My doc was in Suite 204. Okay. Second floor, room four. No prob.
There were no stairs within sight, but an elevator was directly to my left. I pushed the “UP” button. The door opened. I stepped inside. The door closed.
Many of you who know me personally know that I battle a little bit with claustrophobia. There are several incidents in my earlier years to which I can attribute this, but it’s really not important. The ‘condition’ is not debilitating. I simply know my limits. I can attend a crowded party, as long as I know where the exit is, so that I can step outside for a calming breath of fresh air and a gander at a wide open sky. I can shop in a crowded market… just not for an extended amount of time. I need to go straight to the items on my list, and from there to the checkout counter. No squeezing melons or comparing prices for me. And… I can ride in an elevator. As long as the ride is quick, and I’m not hemmed into a back corner by the bulks of strangers’ bodies. (Actually, I can do and have done it… I just don’t like it.)
I was the only person in the elevator. Perfect! I pushed the button for the second floor and waited to reach my destination… waited for the door to open. While I waited, I read the signs posted on the walls of the elevator.
“In case of Fire…” Well, there wasn’t much chance of that, was there?
“In case of a power outage…” Well… the day was sunny, but not hot. No thunderstorms in the forecast, and we weren’t likely to overload the system due to excessive demand, either. Air conditioner usage would be at a minimum.
“Elevator capacity…” I did a quick calculation and decided that the elevator could easily support me and eight and a half others of my size before snapping its tether and plummeting all the way from the second floor to… the first. I looked around me, though. There was NO WAY that the tiny lift could hold nine and a half people without those other eight and a half being incredibly familiar with each other-- and with me. We would have to be chest-to-back and butt-to-front in order to squeeze into that tiny cubicle.
I drew a deep breath. There was nothing to worry about. I was alone in the tiny, enclosed, windowless space, after all. With all kinds of instructions on what to do if catastrophe struck…
Why hadn’t those doors opened? Seriously, I could have climbed that one flight of stairs a dozen times in the moments while I waited for the light over the door to illuminate the “TWO”. My brow furrowed. The number “two” actually WAS lit up. What did that mean? If I’d reached the second floor, why weren’t the doors opening?
Power outage? No. If the electricity had gone out, the floor indicator would have been dark. Right? And the ceiling light wouldn’t be illuminating the undersized and over-rated compartment, either…
I pushed the “two” button again. Just for good measure.
Had I felt the “lift’ of the elevator as it transported me the twelve to fifteen feet from the ground floor to the second? I didn’t recall. I’d been intent on reading the notices posted for my safety.
My safety. I was safe. Of course I was. What was there to be concerned about? It’s not like a woman can die by dropping twelve to fifteen feet! My friend Patty once challenged me to jump out of our tree-house, and that was easily twelve feet off the ground! At least twelve feet! I hadn’t died that day, had I? Of course not! Naturally, in my chicken-livered state (but never one to back down from a challenge) I DID get an awesome splinter in my butt as I sat on the edge and shimmied out to the precipice, and then got another sliver in my belly as I turned around, slid bum-first off the side and dangled, hanging by my fingertips, to reduce to the utmost, the distance between my feet and that unforgiving terra-very-firma…
But the impact hurt. I remember that. Oh, I acted all tough and “See??? It’s no big deal! Now… YOU do it!” (I’ve never figured out which was more idiotic… the fact that I took the dare and jumped, or that I believed her when she said, “If YOU do it, I will…”)
So. Now I knew I’d survive the fall from the second floor to the first… but I also knew I’d be one hurting woman after the fact. I could live with that. If… if I could get out of there, afterwards. There were no guarantees, though. Nothing that said that the force of the landing would blow open the doors and allow that necessary, life-giving oxygen a chance to revitalize the partially, temporarily crippled woman I would soon become.
I jabbed the “two” button, again. I felt my breathing shorten and quicken. Aw, dang it. I was NOT going to get myself into a panic. Not, not, NOT!
In a last ditch attempt to save myself the indignation of being the first OB/GYN patient to give birth to a cow in an elevator, I took a drastic measure. I hit the “open door” button. It was time to see what the inside of an elevator shaft looked like. Maybe I could climb some wall-mounted ladder to the next landing and still arrive at my appointment on time.
I was really glad I hadn’t worn a dress.
To my relief and satisfaction, the doors opened. I quickly stepped from the miniscule and gloomy enclosure, thankful that I wasn’t between floors. I read the wall-mounted sign, practically identical to the one in the lobby. The arrow showed the way to my doctor’s office, and I scurried to the gynecologist’s suite. I’d made it.
An hour later, my checkbook one co-payment lighter, I emerged. I walked the hall--back towards the elevator which was either mal-functioning, or the slowest conveyance on earth. Trepidation caused my heart-rate to accelerate, but it was nothing I couldn’t tolerate. I am brave, after all. No stinking elevator is going to get the best of ME!
As I rounded the corner, I spied the parking lot, straight ahead through the glass doors. The same glass doors though which I’d entered an hour earlier. The same parking lot in which I’d parked my truck and left my son—the son who never knew how close he’d come to losing his mother in a tragic elevator accident.
I turned around and looked at the wall. The sign wasn’t NEARLY identical to the one on the ground floor… it WAS the one on the ground floor.
The second floor was the ground floor. I’d never gone anywhere. I’d entered the elevator and pushed a button which told the lift to go nowhere. To stay still. To rest in peace… while its occupant felt anything BUT!!
I laughed. What else could I do? Seriously… where else but in Maine is the ground floor of an office building called the second floor? I’ll just bet that in some far away state like Massachusetts, the basement is called “the basement” and not “Level One”!!
I was still grinning (mostly in relief for not having to brave my way through another elevator ride) when I reached the truck. Eli looked up from his game.
“Hey,” he said, over-enthusiastic at my arrival. “What’s so funny?”
“Oh,” I snickered as I started the engine, “your mother’s an idiot, that’s all.”
He went back to his game.
“Hmmm. And… that cost you how much?”