Thursday, March 16, 2006

No one even brought Tostitos

No serial killer and no instantaneous soul mate on board with me. No one even brought Tostitos.

One office hour from Spring break, I left my last class and stepped into the empty elevator, headed down.

At least I thought I was headed down.

It seemed to be taking a long time to get from the second floor to the first floor, so I pushed the 1 button again, wondering if I had actually forgotten to push it. I probably only waited a minute, but it seemed like a Really Long Time. Still no arrival, no open doors. I pushed the 1 button again. It glowed briefly, then turned off. I pushed the Open Door button. No response. I pushed the 2 button, and the Close Door button, just for variety. Nothing happened.

I then noticed for the first time that there IS a "help" button in the elevator. So I pushed that.

A staticky female voice informed me that I'd reached the campus police, and what was my emergency?

It didn't take long for help to arrive. But it wasn't reassuring help, not at first. The lights and air went off, then on. A few more moments and the lights and air went off, then on again. They were trying the old turn it off, then turn it back on trick that we use when our TVs and computers won't work. After the third time didn't seem to get the desired results, they quit messing with the electricity and started messing with something metallic. It sounded like a gigantic key was being wiggled in a gargantuan lock.

After some time, a lot of metallic scraping and scratching.

Then tools clacking against metal.


I decided to amuse myself by looking for a camera. Not the candid kind; just the security type. I'd heard that there were hidden cameras in the elevators, but I never found one. Perhaps it's hidden well. I know there are other hidden cameras on campus; one of my students' pockets was picked, and she didn't know it. She thought she'd lost her wallet until the campus police called her and told her that they'd arrested the thief after seeing him on camera taking her wallet.

Forty-five minutes later my legs and feet -- even before the elevator I'd been standing for hours -- were truly aching, so I was grateful, grateful, grateful when three men -- clearly with great effort -- were able to push the doors open. I stepped down (the elevator had stopped about a foot short of its destination) and out.

Instinct must have kicked in because only later did I realize that the first thing I did when I got out was walk about 15 feet away from the elevator and then look back on the scene. A few curious folks, the poor patient student who was going to meet me downstairs (had he not run into a friend, he'd have been stuck with me), a maintenance man, and nine or ten firemen were all congregated around the elevator shaft. Someone shoved a rod into the door to hold it open.

I thanked my rescuers and then student J and I headed for my office to talk about his grades.

Next week I'm going to Chicago, to the 4C's conference. My colleague and I planned to take the elevator to the top of the Sears Tower.

I might be rethinking that plan, though.

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