It’s 7:00 p.m. on Monday night. I left my office in downtown Chicago and got on the elevator with three guys who clearly knew each other. The first floor button was pushed and then,”what was that sound?” “the elevator’s stuck” ” I’ve been stuck on an elevator before” ” do you take elevators alot?” The other guys anxiously chattered away. I didn’t say much because I assumed we’d be on our way in no time. I’ve ridden elevators all my life and I’ve never been stuck on one. And as I’ve mentioned in previous blog entries, I’ve also never been burglarized till Saturday. It feels like there is a theme going on here.
The more the other guys chattered, the more I felt like I needed to enter the conversation. They joked about “group.” They made references to writing about this in their “journal.” And when one guy said,”I shoulda gone to the bathroom before going on the elevator.” Another one mumbled, “coulda, shoulda, woulda.” As I’m writing, I realize I needed to size these guys up before I figured how much of me I wanted to reveal.
I assumed they were in some type of therapy or behavioral modification group. When I asked,where they were coming from, they were clearly reluctant to answer.Someone commented that they wish they had brought something to read. “Does anyone have a book to read?” A man with a blue wind breaker that had the name of ambulance service on it asked if anyone had read a book by Echart Tolle. This confirmed for me that these guys were in some type of recovery program. I jumped in and said that my wife had been listening to some of the Echart Tolle and Oprah Winfrey podcasts. This then led to a discussion about books we had read.
After a short wait, we pushed the red call button and reached building security only to learn, “I’ve never dealt with people stuck on elevator. I need to find out what to do and I’ll call you back.” So the conversation included wondering if we can open the door, should we call the fire department, and whether we’d get cell phone reception. A couple of the guys sat on the floor. One guy dressed in shorts, faded “low top” Converse, and a tattered Cub’s cap, mentioned his wife is a jeweler, “one guy brought in two class rings and got $300 bucks, so if you got gold to get rid of, this is the time to do it. ” A heavy set guy with a sweaty bald head, jeans, and steel toe boots said he works in steel and compared how much he paid for steel just a few months back to what it costs today. I chuckled and mentioned how I’ve never had conversations about gold and steel, and yet today I was talking about getting a steel door and wondering if the robber got any gold.
We called the security guard again,” The elevator man is on his way.” “Should we call the fire department?” ” No, I was told it would cost too much to do that, I’m sorry.” The guys were remarkably cordial and polite to her. It was now 7:30, so I had to contact our babysitter to tell her I was going to be late. I got her answering machine:” Hello, lara, I’m stuck in an elevator and don’t know when I’m getting out. Please call me when you get this.” And this led to me and the ambulance driver to talk about how his niece is named Lara and she was also studying education. He wondered if his niece was my babysitter. And then my phone rang, “I got your message, but the neighbors came over and said someone is trying to break into your garage. I’m not sure what to do.” “Call 911,” I said.
I couldn’t believe it. How could this be happening again? What is going on?I felt stuck, which I was and helpless, which I wasn’t. So I called 911, “I’m told someone is trying to break into my garage.” “Sir, where are you calling from?” ” Me, I’m calling from an elevator. I’m stuck in the elevator.” “Do you want me to call the fire department?” ” No, just send someone to the house.” “I need to have a number for someone in the house.” At this moment, I realized I didn’t know Lara’s cell and wasn’t sure how to get to the “calls received” feature to get her telephone number without losing the police officer. So I gave the police woman my home number and hoped Lara answered it.
I told my new roommates that the 911 officer volunteered to call the fire department for us. And then I informed them that my garage was being burglarized. They were pretty empathic. “That’s pretty bold of the guy to come back.” “Why would the person come back?” ” It sucks to be burglarized. It happened to me. I took out a bee bee gun and pointed it at the guy. Are you looking for something. He said I was looking for my friend.” I chuckled, ” that’s funny place to look for a lost friend.”
The cell phone rings. ” This is 911. You’re babysitter said it was a false alarm. Are you sure you don’t want me to call the fire department? ” Thanks, but it sounds like the elevator guy should be able to get us out.” Lara called, ” I’m sorry about that. The person who rents the garage saw foot prints on the top of his car, which he thought might have been a clue to the burglary. But upon further inspection, realized it was probably his kids prints.” ” Thank God. Just reassure Ry this was a mix up and I’ll let you know when I’m out. ” The guys seemed relieved as well.
“Hey security guard, is the elevator guy here?” ” He’s in the building.” At this point, we attempt to open the elevator door. We faced a brick wall and saw the light of the 6Th and 7Th floor. It did feel a little cooler and less claustrophobic. The conversation then took us to Rome, Florence, and Venice where one of the guys spent his honeymoon three years ago. I asked one guy about his interests in the “culinary arts.” This led to a discussion about food. Two of the guys identified themselves as good cooks,” if you want Italian meatballs or anything on the grill, I’m your man.”
“I see some light. I think its the elevator guy.” “Hey, can’t you just pop this other door open, so we can slide out? ” Can’t do that from here, I need to go to the top or bottom floor.” I asked about the escape hatch on top of the elevator. The elevator guy got on top of the elevator, pulled the dusty top open and offered to help us out. We gave the biggest guy a boost, but he couldn’t get up and out. Interestingly, we all stayed in our new elevator condo. None of us tried to get out and leave him behind. So it’s now past 8:00pm, and the conversation takes another turn.
“Have you guys ever had 10centBW’s-buffalo wings.” “Oh I lov em. I could eat tons of them. Oh, the sauce. ” “How many could you eat?” Bout 30″ “What bout you?” “10-15.” I said I’d have to go with the 10-15 too. ” I had 50. And they were this big.” He spread his thumb and pointer finger to show us the size.” So I had to ask, ” and you weren’t sick from that.” ” I’m not saying I didn’t get sick.” And then the ambulance driver that wished he had joined the elevator union who appears to be studying nursing said,” when I was 16, a guy came up to me and said he could eat 20 White Castle sliders. So I said, I could eat 50.” I joked, ” of course, you couldn’t say 25 or 30, it had to be 50.” He indicated he also was sick for some time after that competition.
And then the elevator felt like it was moving. And then the door opened. The guy with the Cubs hat took three exaggerated breaths and embraced the cool air-conditioned hall way. Three of us didn’t want anymore adventures for the night so,we walked down 6 flights of stairs. The one who loved his steel toed shoes, took another elevator down. The guys wondered whether we would beat him to the first floor. We didn’t . We met the security lady. She was apologetic. I walked outside with these guys and we shook hands.
As I took the bus home, I thought it was an odd way to end this unique encounter. We just spent one hour and forty-five minutes of our lives together in an elevator and we parted ways with a hand shake and “nice to meet ya.”