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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

#1 Elevator

The office building I work in has a bank of three elevators. Normally one presses the call button and one of them soon arrives and you get in and go up to the suite or down to the Lobby and that is it. Most times it is a solitary ride unless it is lunch time and a group of us leave and return together after going out to the same lunch spot for whatever we chose to buy that day. Occasionally there is someone to hold the door for to share the ride up to various floors. On the way down at the end of the day more that one person has the same idea for when to leave work for the day.

On this particular day I met a coworker as she returned from dropping mail in the Lobby mail bin. I pressed the hall call button and waited the requisite amount of time for one of the three units to rise to our 10th floor suite. This day the #1 and the # 3 car arrived nearly simultaneously. My first thought was 'this is odd.' However when Stephanee stepped out of the #1 car, I realized that it was a coincidence that she arrived from the Lobby just as the #3 arrived at my call. Since she was there I commented that both cars arrived and I used the one she came out of. My choice was a 50/50 one but weighted on the #1 by a social factor of talking with a coworker at that moment.

On the way down the car stopped on the 7th floor to pick up Brian as he was leaving. I did not know Brian just then, but circumstances would soon change that. We did the usual process of ignoring each other than to briefly nod to acknowledge each other. He continued to view his cell phone screen as the door closed and we proceeded down to the Lobby.

Before we reached that elevation, the car stopped abruptly just as we were expecting to stop gently at the Lobby. I commented, "that was a rather abrupt stop." Brian looked up and noted that the floor indicator still showed "2". I continued my comment with, "that's not good."

We began to speculate whether the ride would soon be completed and whether the elevator car would reset and continue. It didn't. The lights stayed on so we were not left in the dark stuck in a small space. None of the panel buttons would light when pressed. I tried the obvious "door open" and "door close" just to be sure. The red emergency indicator light kept flashing and beeping at irregular intervals. It read "Fire Emergency Indicator Retuning to Lobby Level". We did not believe that report. We could hear the other cars moving up and down as we pondered our next moves and fate.

Brian rang the emergency bell to try for the lobby guard's attention. I reached for the telephone box to see if it actually worked and if some one would actually answer. Operator 54 answered and I provided the rundown of our situation. "Colorado Building, Car #1, two people, no crises other than we are bored and really want to get home." Op 54 said he was calling the service people to come get us out. He suggested we call back every 3 to 5 minutes to keep them informed.

This is when I learned Brian's name. We began exchanging basic information about what we do, how long we worked in the building. That such stuff. I told him that one of my prevalent anxiety dreams involves elevators that don't do what they are supposed to do and do weird things that are not. They do things like go sideways and diagonally. The won't stop on the floor I want. I can see the rickety tracks and funky cables. They will go down below the last floor and become subway trains or run on train tracks until they emerge into the daylight and run along rainy streets until the rusty tracks disappear in the woods. For me this is a reoccurring theme. He said, "this will probably add a lot." I agreed.

The cell phone service was non-existent in that small metal car, but SMS and email would get out on a lower power comm channel. Brian reported that there was no data service for browser connectivity. I started emailing my colleagues on the company group address. The Subject was "Party in the #1 elevator tonight." Msg: "It's been nearly an hour here in #1 waiting on the ele-tech. Maybe I can just stay over tonight *sarcasm*"

That message elicited a half dozen responses:
  • In our own dear sweet Colorado Bldg?
  • Are you alright? ==>Yes. But no music or beer. Tech is on the roof now.
  • R u in our building? ==>Yes ==> Take tomorrow as a work at home day-----minus the hours you're waiting!!! ==> Still in the 'vader at 1341 as of 5:40. I'll be sure to send the all clear when freed.
  • In our building? ==> Yup. Somewhere between the Lobby and 2. Techs are working on it. ==> Great way to end the day. Hang in there.
  • Are cocktails being served? ==> The band is playing '80s covers and room is getting hot.
While the email dialog was going on so was an SMS conversation with one of the guys from the 5:20 Marc train. He was checking on whether I was going to be there because the Conductor was waiting for me. I inferred that that meant the train was on the 16 Track and the Conductor needed to use the lift. I asked if it was Track 16. He replied that it was 16 and at the far north end. The group I usually ride with also keeps the seat up for where I will park my wheelchair. They defend it against people who want to sit there. I try to let them know when I won't be there so they don't get into needless arguments and the Conductors don't wait when I won't be there. I made sure to tell them that Wednesday and Thursday I would not be there for various reasons.

When the first hour mark arrived so did the ele-techs. We could hear them but no one was checking on our status. Since we are both okay, we did not worry about that. Brian pondered the prospects that if they could not get the car to move what would they/we do? I suggested that they could drop us a line through the ceiling hatch and pull us up. We agreed that that would be a huge rescue effort that probably would not be needed.

I told Brian about the BWI elevator history with the 3 or 4 times the Anne Arundal Fire Department had to pry the doors open to get people out. I also pointed out that transit system elevators must have visibility panels to see in and see out. He said that was a good idea because he has been in the Metro late in the evening and was not interested in riding with some of the people who were also there.

Then after about an hour and a half the car settled to the lobby level but the door still did not open. I pressed the door open button and voila – the lobby and a rush of fresh cool air blew in. I reported our status as "Free at last free at last…" and "5:51 and in the Lobby"

Then responses:
  • I was afraid they were going to have to cater dinner. ==> Through a Straw... On the Red Line now taking my chances there.
  • I asked about it on my way out and they said you weren't the only one in there. I hope it wasn't traumatic! ==> One other guy from the 7th floor was there. We were in good spirits for being significantly delayed getting home. The phone worked and the central dispatch folks were there. Now on the 6:20 train with 5 seconds to spare. No time to dwell at the Center Cafe.
  • Where were you? Where was elevator? BWI? Union Station? Our lobby? Sounds bad wherever? ==> Left end elevator in the Colorado bldg, you know, the wonky one. Stephanee had just come up in it from dropping mail. She got the elevator. I got the shaft. I'm home now with a DVD and a Long Island Iced Tea, feeling no pain.
After getting out I had to go right back up to the suite for the restroom before embarking on the remainder of my trip home. Except for all the rain, there was no further fubars.

My last messages on the events of the day were: "just came from being stuck in a stalled elevator in the Colorado office building for nearly a hour and a half. Managed to catch the 6:20 MARC after an uneventful Metro ride to Union Station. It remains to be seen if there are any other buggaboos between here and my livingroom." And "No bugs in transit and wound up in my living room with a DVD and a LIIT. Movie was fair the LIIT awesome." This day too passed into foggy recesses of days that are done.