|by JohnCarolJohnson via Flickr|
The elevator was taking longer than usual. With only one standard elevator in a building of more than 80 apartments (the second one is for freight, emergencies, move-ins and move-outs only), it’s not uncommon to wait two to three minutes and sometimes longer. I didn’t think too much of it. After all, most New York City elevators aren’t exactly high speed, especially those in prewar buildings.
Meanwhile, we stood with a medium-size suitcase full of Mom’s birthday weekend clothes, and a large shopping bag jammed with extras like a half-eaten Crumbs vanilla coconut cupcake, her black sweater for the chilly bus ride back to Reading, and a half loaf of Zabar’s rye bread. Finally, the elevator stopped at the eighth floor, the door opened and Mom and I walked on with her luggage, joining an elderly gentleman whom I didn’t recognize. Then, floor by floor we descended in a matter of seconds, until we reached the lobby.
The interior part of the elevator door opened as usual, but the exterior didn’t. We had no way to exit. We pressed “door open” and “1” yet nothing happened. We repeated it. Again. And nothing.
Oh no! suddenly – it was like déjà vous. I had been in a similar situation a little more than a year ago. I clearly remembered being trapped in a tiny three-by-three elevator cab with four other people. We were caught between floors for nearly an hour, and I entered panic mode when smoke began billowing into the elevator of the Upper East Side building in which we had spent the evening.
Breathe. This was not then. We were not getting trapped. What was the chance of this happening to me —AGAIN?
|When I was trapped in an elevator, it was one quarter of this size. —by Derekskey via Flickr|
I remained calm. I thought quickly. I pressed “2”; the interior elevator door closed and we began moving upward. Thank God. We stopped at the second floor and waited a few seconds for the door to open. And it did – normally. My mother and I exited, but the gentleman remained. “I’d take the stairs down a flight if I were you,” I advised him. “I’ve been caught in an elevator before and had to be rescued; I’d rather walk down one flight.”
The gentleman hesitated, but then exited the cab with his cane in hand, and followed us. Concerned, he asked if he could help with the luggage, but I told him that I could manage.
Moving along, he said, “Am I going to have to walk back up 13 flights?”
“No, of course not,” I responded. “Someone will take you up in the freight elevator.” This was, after all, an emergency.
We finished the flight of stairs and exited the building. After crossing the street, I hailed a taxi southbound, and mom was on her way.
I reentered the building and the overworked elevator was moving, but that wasn’t enough for me to jump back in without apprehension. I waited.
Meanwhile, our super was on the phone with the repair company, probably scheduling a service call, while two of our neighbors waited patiently with a cart full of belongings from their weekend trip out of the city. We exchanged getting-caught-in-elevator nightmare stories as we observed the numbers light up and change above the elevator door: 6-5-4-3…..
A broken elevator is a normal occurrence in my building and it was an almost daily occurrence in my previous building with three times the tenants and three elevators. Moreover, elevator issues are the norm everywhere in New York City. We learn to live with broken elevators, much in the same way we learn to live with out-of-service subways.
While waiting, I overheard the sound of the freight elevator in the hall around the corner. Ennis, one of our doormen, was manning it. I didn’t hesitate to hop on. In seconds, I rode all the way to the eighth floor with no drama or mechanical issues. Exiting, I thanked him and took a deep breath, relieved.
Had Ennis not been operating that freight elevator, or if our co-op didn’t have one, I would’ve walked up those eight flights instead.
|Taking the stairs may not be such a bad idea, after all.—-by the Idealist via Flickr|