While vacationing during the holidays in December, I was on my way for an early morning walk when my luck seemed to run out. Starting from the sixth floor of my hotel, I planned to take the stairs for my “warm-up”. As I approached the elevators on my way to the stairway, I saw a couple who were on the tennis court near us the day before shortly before we were all rained out. They were off to the courts to play again and we got to chatting about the weather, and other matters, when the elevator arrived. I decided to get in with them, rather than taking the stairs and cutting our conversation short. Shortly after the doors closed after our stop on floor five to let a bellman aboard, the elevator started to move, thumped once and stopped. The digital sign went dark so we were unsure which floor we were on. The bellman had a walkie-talkie and communicated our situation to one of his colleagues. Since cell phones and the phones installed in elevators rarely work, I felt fortunate to have been stuck with a hotel employee. He was promised that a security officer would be called immediately. I started to panic, thinking that a security officer may not know how to get an elevator to work without calling a technician, who could take hours to show up.
At that moment, I began to wonder what my family (all still safely tucked in bed and not answering their cell phones) would become without me should the elevator suddenly crash down to the basement. I thought about my two sons, both adults, who would be devastated but have essentially been raised already—as much as college and high school students can be considered as grown up and “fully cooked”. I worried the most about my daughter, age ten, who still had her potentially problematic teenage years ahead of her. My daughter, demonstrating her new independence as a tween, already finds ways to torment my husband by arguing about insignificant issues on a daily basis. In addition, he was already worried about training bras and phase two of “the talk” so raising her alone was unthinkable. I was worried that without me, they would suffer terribly through the next eight years, especially with both boys out of the house.
I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was age 33, shortly after my second son was born. We were very close and her loss devastated me in many ways, not to mention the rest of my family. I have a similar close relationship with my daughter and am just beginning to see how her coming maturity will change how we relate to each other. I could not imagine leaving her at such a young age. We adopted our daughter at birth and somehow taking on that responsibility made it even more imperative that we keep her safe, warm, educated and happy, at least until she can take care of herself as an adult. Having a mother, as well as a father, would be critical to her happiness over the next ten years. I just couldn’t leave her. Although being stuck in an elevator may routinely happen more frequently than I knew, I was determined to get out quickly.
During the eight excruciating minutes while we waited to be rescued, all four of us were running the “what-ifs” through our heads. It doesn’t take long to consider the most negative consequences. I walked up to the doors and tried to pry them open. Clearly, I wasn’t strong enough but the two men took over the project and got the doors to open. We were just below the fifth floor and it only took a little bit of athleticism to crawl out to safety.
It didn’t take me long to thank my lucky stars, text my family that I was okay (in case they woke up to my previous panicked texts), and head down the stairs to freedom. My daughter had warned us about that particular elevator, which she had noticed as problematic on several previous occasions, and I let her say “I told you so” when I returned from my walk. There aren’t many brushes with death that leave you emotionally content but this incident reminded me how grateful I am for my family and they all reminded me how truly loved I am. Hopefully we can all take a moment to acknowledge our blessings in life, without getting stuck in an elevator or finding ourselves in any other perilous situation.