Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Love In An Elevator Nick Paumgarten's piece on elevators and the dull peril of being trapped in them stops just short of literary journalistic brilliance. Not that there's anything wrong with the article per se. It just fails to capture the existential horror of elevator entrapment. How would I know? Glad you asked. Three years ago, I spent the better part of an hour trapped in an elevator. I'd rushed to the Humanities Instructional Building to make some copies before an 8 a.m. class and so instead of bounding up four flights of stairs I chose to take the elevator.* The elevators in HIB have a hitch. They overshoot every floor by about an inch and then ... hang ... there ... for a few beats before settling down. You get used to it. So I pressed the button, flew up four stories and was hanging there for a few beats ... and then a few more ... and then a few more ... and so with great annoyance (feigned ostentatiously for a nonexistent audience) I pressed the "Door Open" button. But nothing happened. Then I tried to go to the second floor and pressed the button and it lit up. But nothing happened. So I hit the button with the fire and the ax on it. The one that requires a key to work. Because maybe if they knew someone was fucking with important buttons in the elevator they would send someone to reprimand them. But nothing happened. At this point I was about five minutes into my own hanging. The damn thing wouldn't settle and so I panicked. I started pacing frantically and I checked my watch and I knew I would be late for class because you know and why am I still hanging inches above my point of egress but then wait a minute I'm an inch from the floor I want to be on but am in fact floating in an elevator shaft four stories up with a two-thousand pound counterweight aimed at my head and maybe I ought to take a breath or two and consider the seriousness of my predicament and so with great consideration I jumped in the air and slammed my feet into the floor. I stomped and stomped thinking that I might loosen what normally unhitched and allowed the elevator to settle. Twenty minutes later I stopped. I figured the noise I'd made would alert someone that something was wrong with the elevators. It didn't. I resigned myself to skipping class on account of having the best of all possible excuses shortly after dismissing the possibility that there's only so much air in an elevator and there was no chance I'd suffocate and that the worse case scenario was that I'd drink my water and eat my granola bar and have to evacuate savagely into or onto an improvised something but despite the calm I convinced myself I felt it dawned on me that I was breathless and hyperventilating and that if this fucking...

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