What goes up must come down—eventually

“Everyone should be able to do one card trick, tell two jokes, and recite three poems, in case they are ever trapped in an elevator.”— American writer and musician Daniel Handler

Whether my elevator goes all the way to the top floor has been debated on more than one occasion, and there are days when I’m not sure about it myself. Two premises about elevators I can verify with certainty, however. One, the elevator isn’t going anywhere until you push a button. Two, lack of good judgment may interrupt your journey to the top.

Staying at a hotel near the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals car show in Chicago last month (top floor by the way) meant everywhere I went required an elevator ride. Waiting for one trip up, I noticed the guy waiting with me was wearing an Oldsmobile jacket. “Nice jacket,” I commented as the doors closed. “I’m here for the Olds W-31 Invitational.”

“Are you showing a car,” he asked. I replied no, attending because I had owned two of the featured Oldsmobile muscle cars. Acknowledging he was a spectator too, our conversation continued until we figured out that our elevator was never going to reach the top, or anywhere else for that matter. Neither of us had pushed a button leaving the elevator patiently waiting for some direction.

“Going nowhere is better than stuck between floors,” he laughed. “Been there, done that,” I said. The weather was cold and snowy in Chicago that day, but it was warm and sunny at a Dallas hotel some years ago when my elevator not only didn’t reach the top, it got stuck trying to get there.

Attired in swimwear and towels after a splash at the pool, my family and I boarded the elevator headed for the top floor. Always teasing my kids when they were young (actually, I still do), a temporary lapse of good judgment led me to think it would be entertaining to “demonstrate” how if one jumps up in an elevator, it rises up to meet them. I had absolutely no scientific data to support that theory, but it sounded good.

The jumping up part went swimmingly well. It was the coming back down part that failed. When I hit the elevator floor, it stopped—dead still. In the waning seconds of silence afterward, both kids looked up at me. My son, Lee, whispered, “Dad, you can make it start again now.”

I really wanted to tell him I wished that were possible. Problem is, I couldn’t. All I could do was push every button on the panel before selecting “emergency.” Doing that invited a calm, polite speaker voice into the elevator. “Is there a problem?”

Rather than saying the first thing that came to mind, I replied, “I think we’re stuck.” After an eternity of minutes, polite voice confirmed my assumption, we were stuck. Then asked if we were OK, encouraged us to remain calm, and assured us that we would be out quickly.

Time has blurred the memory of how long it took, but eventually, polite voice returned. “You’re stuck between floors. Our plan is to pry the door open below you, allowing enough room to crawl out and down a ladder.”

Not having a better plan, I responded, “Perfect.”

A variety of noises were followed by voices before doors were parted revealing a space about three-feet high along the floor through which a fireman’s face smiled. “You folks ready to get out of there.”

Deciding any answer would have been rhetorical, I got on my knees to see a sea of rescuers and spectators peering back at me.

Time would pass before my family would board an elevator with me again. Even today, entering an elevator with either of my now adult children gets me a “don’t even think about it” look.

Guess they’re afraid my elevator still doesn’t go all the way to the top.

—Leon Aldridge

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas Light and Champion and the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune.


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