Elevator mishap remains strong in memory

August 26, 2010

I am sure by now you have read about Stephanie Abrams, journalist on The Today Show who got stuck in an elevator and went on to do her broadcast from there. Can you even imagine?

My first memory of being stuck in an elevator was at Bethany Medical Center — just off what was referred to as Two West — down, trying to go up. Brump! The old thing stopped. It was known for getting stuck. It was wedged between two floors with the doors solidly shut.

I was in the big, grey box with another nursing student who asked me if I was afraid. I was still thinking about it when she remarked the worst thing we could do would be to get upset and start screaming or something, which she then proceeded to do — and quite loudly I might add.

Once she commenced screaming, she began flailing about and kicking the elevator door. If I wasn’t anxious to start with, she soon scared me out of ten years’ growth. That must be what accounts for my short stature — that and a fear of elevators.

One of the comments she made — if one can make comments while screeching at the top of their lungs — was that there wasn’t enough air in the elevator to breathe, and had I noticed?

Well, not until then I hadn’t. Suddenly there didn’t seem to be enough air to breathe.

She banged on the elevator, breathing like she was sipping air through a straw. Her theory: Save on air, just take a little sip at a time, she instructed between screaming and kicking at the doors.

I was becoming unhinged, but I wanted to appear calm for fear the situation would go from bad to worse. When all else fails, however, there is little one can do but join the fracas.

I heaved myself into the door and grabbed at the door, which creaked open. Maybe that was a good thing and maybe not, because it became quite evident there was a concrete barrier above a gaping hole — not a pretty picture; surgical in an exaggerated sort of way.

Stony was the engineer who freed us.

“Sedgwick,” he yelled, “is that you down there?”

I was embarrassed to say that it was. He lowered himself head and shoulders first and grabbed my hands, drawing me up out of there with big, bulky arms, sweaty armpits, grey crew cut and a starched uniform with BMC on the shirt pocket in maroon letters.

He pulled the other nursing student to floor level. He commented on the loud racket we had created and asked how many more of us there were still in the elevator. We explained there were only the two of us. Oh, really, he said. He seemed confused.

My classmate asked me later as we were walking down the hall why I had gotten so excited, when she had remained calm. Who was that screaming? Me? Oh, really.

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