I was headed to the Halloween Toronto Dribbble meetup on Wednesday. For my non-web and IT friends, Dibbble is an online community for designers and illustrators, somewhat of a show and tell for designers for web, mobile, and IT. I am not a designer, but I like a designer’s mind. The Dribbble meetup was organized by Linda Nakanishi @ ecentricarts, and I thought that I would go out to support them.
Just after 7pm on Wednesday, I showed up at the door of 317 Adelaide St. I noticed that there was a Wheel Trans bus parked in front letting someone off. When I walked into the building. I was met at the front door by designers Cassie K who was dressed as an owl, and Michelle, who dressed as a cat. “Fantastic costumes” I said.
“You should see Mark’s costume” they told me.
Using their key fob, they called the elevator for me and I got in with two other people. We walked in, the doors closed as we turned around to face the front. I tried to pressed the button but it didn’t go on. We felt the elevator move downwards and then stop.
“Cassie! Michelle!” I yelled through the door. “We’re stuck!!!“. The gentleman who was also trapped with me tried banging on the door as well. He began to look up and down the elevator door to try to find a latch of some sort. We banged on the door for a few more minutes but didn’t feel like we were being heard. We could hear Cassie K and Michelle’s muffled voices through the door greeting other people and letting them into the other elevator that wasn’t stuff. I pressed the Alarm button and the elevator bell rang to let them know that we were indeed stuck in there.
I took out my cellphone and called Mark S. who came down to the first floor to investigate. Somebody located the number for the building supervisor, at the same time that I pressed the Help button on the elevator panel (which is different from the alarm button).
Let’s put this elevator story in perspective. The Commodore Building was made in 1929 as a commercial warehouse and the elevator is refurbished. In my lifetime, I have probably taken those elevators somewhere between 6000-8000 times [For this figure, I’m calculating at least once or twice a day, for at least 3 years in my work as an employee, former client, and freelancer at ecentricarts). It was the first time that I had ever gotten stuck. This means that for the rest of you who still work in that building, your chances of getting stuck may be similar – so go ahead and take those stairs. 🙂
I’d always seen that Help button. A button with a telephone receiver as the symbol. I pressed it. We could hear the familiar sound of a dial tone, a phone dialing, and then the sound of ringing. I had no clue where the microphone was, but the phone started to work as if I were on speakerphone. A woman picked up.
“Hello. We are calling from 317 Adelaide St. West because we are stuck in an elevator on the 1st floor!!!”
The woman was very calm and reassuring. She would have been a great 911 operator. “You are entrapped in an elevator at 317 Adelaide?” she said.
“Yes.” I said.
I liked her use of the word entrapped. That was a better word than I was using — stuck — but entrapped suggests that somehow we were persuaded to do something that we wouldn’t usually do, which wasn’t the case…I decided that trapped was the better word.
She told me not to worry and said that she was getting in touch with someone to come get us out and that they would be there in about 15 minutes. She took my cellphone number just in case they needed to reach me.
In the meantime, My friend Kathryn had arrived out in the lobby with her fiance Mark M. Kathryn yelled at me through the door to let me know that Mark started trying to work on the elevator from the outside to see if there was a latch. He worked long and hard on that, and I appreciated him a lot for trying. After some time, I yelled at Kathryn and Mark and everyone else in the lobby to go ahead and go upstairs to the #Dribbbleto meetup, because someone was on their way to help us. Reluctantly they left me.
Thoughts when trapped in an Elevator
What do you think about when you are trapped in an elevator? Here are 10 things.
- You wonder how long you are going to be stuck in there
The lady on the elevator phone said 15 minutes but every minute in there seems like five. Survival instincts kick in.
- You wonder if you’re hungry
It was the first thing I did after we called the elevator dispatch service was to put my hand in my purse and feel around to see what food I had. Silently, just in case I might have to share and split it. Finally tally – I had 3 Larabars and 2 apples in my purse (I had forgotten to leave the Larabars in my glove box — because sometimes when I get stuck in traffic, my survival instincts kick in). Sometimes it pays to be forgetful.
- You wonder if you really have to go to the bathroom or if you just feel that way knowing that you can’t go
Similar to the way I feel when I go camping or on a road trip, my bladder has its own psychology and it makes me want to go. I have had nightmares where I have to go to the bathroom and this felt like that nightmare.
- You introduce yourself to the people that you’re stuck in the elevator with.
I met Lana and Steve. Lana is a designer who moved from Russia 5 year ago, and is also Linda’s student. She was seated in a super fancy wheelchair – the kind that that has a fancy joystick, small stablizer wheels in front the big wheels. The kind that would make you think that if you had to be in a wheelchair, you definitely want to be in that one because it was automated and you wouldn’t have to wheel it around getting crazy biceps. Enough about the chair though… Lana is way more than the wheelchair just like we are all more than the cars we drive. 🙂 Lana had previously done web design work, but was looking to network in order to gain more Canadian experience. Her friend Steve was with her for support.
- You want to avoid anything that is uncomfortable in an enclosed space
In my case, I was happy that had the discipline to no eat that cheese that I had wanted to eat earlier in the evening. For those of you who know my digestive conditions — Yes, I am lactose intolerant, but I can digest sheep cheeses and any cow cheese that has been aged longer than 18 months without having to run to the bathroom writhing in pain. I had a block of Comte and I had a little fight with myself earlier in the evening about whether I should eat it or not. I have to be careful not to eat too much. Now that I was stuck in an enclosed space with other people, I was happy to not be gassy. Then again, who is ever happy to be gassy?
- You are glad to have a smartphone.
These are the times we live in. Smartphones are great at helping time pass. Both Lana and I were happy that our smartphones had battery power and that we both had a cellphone signal. We texted, tweeted, and browsed the Internet. At some point, I looked up from my phone and saw James just staring into space. “No cellphone James?” I asked. He pointed to his handheld cellphone strapped into his bag. “It’s not a smartphone, it’s a dumbphone.” he said dryly.
- You wonder what you’re missing out on
Lana showed me the picture of the Halloween cupcakes from the #dribbbleTO meetup. She was pretty bummed out about missing out on those cupcakes because she was stuck in an elevator…
- You get tired of standing, and you want to stretch out.
About 10 minutes into being stuck, I decided to sit down on the floor with my feet stretched out. Beforehand, I thought about how dirty the floor might be, but the Commodore Building is a pretty clean building. Around 6pm, I had often seen a white haired latin janitor who is hard of hearing to ‘Hellos’. He is very focussed on whatever task he is doing with a rag and a mop. Poor James stood in the same spot for the full hour. I offered to share my space but he said that he was fine.
- You eat an apple and a Larabar
See point #2. This is a survival thing. I had dinner but I was scared to go hungry. I ate a Larabar, and then the macintosh apple until it was a tiny core, so as to not waste any of that apple.
- You have gratitude and feel hopeful that this wasn’t some your demise or else some awful prank
First off, I was happy that there were only 2 people stuck in that elevator with me. I have been in that elevator when it has been packed in the morning. That would have been awful. I also thanked my lucky stars that:
- I didn’t die — A couple of years ago during the Christmas season when I was still employed full time at ecentricarts, I read news about a woman who stepped in an elevator in NYC and in a freak event, the elevator lurched up with its door still open dragging her until she was pinned between the elevator and the wall. I’m sure that it was a day like any other but that day was her last. The story affected me, and for months afterwards, I took the stairs up to work, or else jumped with two feet into the elevator. Similar to other cautionary urban stories, the protagonist was a woman who was doing something quite mundane and didn’t expect to die. I thanked my lucky stars that this wasn’t me.
- I am glad this wasn’t a crazy prank — It’s the Halloween season after all… Have you ever seen the Scary Ghost Elevator Prank in Brazil that went viral? I kept thinking of the vision of the girl that they put through the trap panel door all zombie looking and creepy looking holding a little doll and screaming. What a mean, mean trick. I would never recover for that.
Around 7:25pm we pressed the Help button to follow up on the first call – This is the former PM in me. If people are doing something, I want to know that things are going to plan. Yes, things were still in motion.
Around 7:40pm. I got a call from a man named Warren. He was the man that the elevator company sent to save us. He asked if it was possible for us to open the left panel of the elevator door. We tried but couldn’t.
Around 7:45 we heard someone using some kind of tool to pry open the elevator door from the outside. At last the door opened. We cheered! “You must be Warren!” I said to the heavy set man with the navy blue jacket on. I lept out of the elevator onto the ground floor.
But I looked back into the elevator and noticed that it was about 10 inches below the 1st floor. This wasn’t a problem for me and James, but for Lana in her cool wheelchair, this wasn’t going to work.
“We can lift out the chair…” Warren said.
“The chair itself weighs about 300lbs.” James said. “I’d rather stay and wait until you can fix the elevator to be level with the ground floor.”
“Let’s try the ramp!” said Warren. He brought in the yellow painted wooden ramp in from outside. No luck. The ramp was about 5 inches short. We were all disappointed. Warren wedged the wheelchair ramp into the door so that it wouldn’t close.
“Well it’s going to take me about 10-15 mins to bypass the elevator security system to raise that elevator up.” Warren said. “When I get up there, I’m going to call you on your cellphone.” he said, looking to me.
And so we waited. Me on the outside of the elevator and Lana and James still inside of it. Linda Nakanishi came down from the Dribbble meetup to put a sign up at the front door and we were all happy to see her. When we saw her everyone said “Heyyy!!!”
Linda was apologetic and very sorry that we got stuck, even though it wasn’t her fault at all. It’s been such a crazy day! she sighed. “but, if you’re gonna be stuck in an elevator, Amber’s a pretty good person to be stuck with. She’s pretty calm.” What a nice thing to say Linda. 🙂
Just then, Warren called my cellphone. “Ok, I’m going to try to bypass the security on the elevator and try to raise it.” I told Lana and James, and they braced for movement.
The elevator came up an inch higher than the ground floor, and then fell again past ground level. “Yes! yes! Awwwwhnn.” everyone groaned. It was probably still too much of a height difference for Lana’s chair.
“Well, maybe try it anyway,” said James.
“No. I know my chair…” said Lana, but she tried it anyway. The difference was too high. “Even if it were higher than the ground floor I could do it.”
James started to bring the ramp back in to try it, I asked him to wait, and tell me what the height difference was on the elevator to the ground floor. “About 5 inches.” he said.
I still had Warren on the phone. “Hey Warren, we’re about 5 inches too short…”
“Ok. Give me another couple of minutes…” he said. “There are all of these bypasses I have to make.” and then… “ok, ready.”
“He’s going to lift it up again!” I said to Lana and James. The elevator lifted up and stopped at ground level.
“YAAAY!!!” we all hollered as Lana wheeled out into the lobby. “Thank you! Thank you Warren! You saved us!” I said into the phone.
Linda used the key fob to call the other elevator for us. I have to say, it’s strange feeling to have been stuck in the elevator, only to go into the other one. I itched to take the stairs but felt like I didn’t want to abandon my comrades from the first elevator, so we all went into it, deja vu style, testing our faith.
The button for “3” lit up happy and blue around it when I pressed it. The doors closed and we felt the elevator move up and open onto the 3rd floor, exactly as it had all 6000 times beforehand for me.
Finally…the Dribbble meetup. I went in and spotted my friends from ecentricarts and gave them hugs as if I had gone to war and back. I laughed at their costumes. Mark was the funniest dressed in his French Kiss costume (he won 1st prize by vote). I had to chuckle, thinking of where we had been an hour ago. I can picture him down in the lobby in this costume, trying to coordinate getting me out of the elevator with all of that makeup on…
After the hugs, and I dropped my coat and purse in a corner, the first thing I did was to grab a handful of Halloween candy, and a drink. Swedish Berries and Smarties fed the emotions in my stomach, because even though I am generally a calm person in an emergency situation, my inner child wants comfort in the form of candy whenever something bad happens.
I asked myself why this happened? I don’t know. I blame Mercury retrograde.
Maybe it happened to force me to write a blog post, or to serve as a reminder to take the stairs….Well, I’m glad that I survived to tell the tale.