For the first time in my life yesterday morning, I was stuck in a damn elevator at the Sandton Gautrain Station. For half an hour. It was one of the longest thirty frigging minutes of my life. That, and the conundrums that came with the (very) inconvenient situation made for an interesting beginning of the week. Not in a good way.
Firstly, I was on my way to work. When you commute, you keep track of your time as closely as possible to ensure that you arrive at work on time and that you don’t spend too much time on the road. So this meant I was thrown out of schedule by a whole half an hour. On a Monday. What a way to start the week. Monumentally late.
Secondly, there was no signal where the elevator was stuck. About 4 storeys into the ground. I couldn’t talk to anyone, or message or email anyone. I was pretty much stuck underground without any means of telling the world.
Then there was the crappy fact that I was stuck in an elevator with 15 other people. Actually 16 if you count the little girl, possibly a year old, nestled in her father’s arms. 16 people in an elevator for half an hour gets a little scary especially if your imagination is like mine – wild. I blame all the bad television I’ve watched over the years.
What if the cables snapped and the elevator tumbled down into a bottomless pit full of sulphur and brimstone where there is gnashing of teeth and… wait a minute. That’s a little too dramatic. Perhaps plummeting just a couple of hundred metres down a shaft into darkness. I was thinking two things – jump just before the lift hits the bottom or bend my knees like one would if genuflecting as the cage of death plummets down. Both solutions (apparently) save your knees from breaking on impact.
This terrifying thought co-existed with observations of my rather cramped surroundings.
A man close to the emergency intercom pressed the help button and there was an answer and I thought, thank the ancestors, we are not alone! That was until the guy, when asked how many we were in the lift joked saying 102. Yes we were not alone. We were with stupid. This moron was taking this lightly! We could die! So I quickly did a head count and shouted, 15, 16 including the little child. We would get an answer shortly, the woman on the intercom said.
While waiting patiently, a man standing next to me decided being stuck in a lift was a good time to pull his earphones out of his bag and play music on loud volume. First track was some riff-heavy track, probably metal or rock, then the next was a David Guetta track. The third wasn’t a track but a silent scream (read: internal turmoil) from me telling him the noise in his earphones was annoying and frankly, inconsiderate given our situation.
While screaming silently, the little child started playing with her toy cellphone. The sound from the toy was loud. I was thinking – it’s a frigging Monday morning, give me a frigging break. I needed a Panado.
My mind raced and I thought, oh shit, before long the claustrophobes will start wailing and sweating profusely. Then there will be panic attacks with people hyperventilating and barfing. Oh shit! While mulling over this unfortunate way for life to end, the emergency phone rings and the woman informs us that help will be coming in 10 minutes. There was hope, but hope was 10 minutes too far.
But I relaxed a bit, thinking some more. Wherever you are in the world, all elevator jams are the same: the awkward silence at first, the panic (internal or not), the attack of the phobias and and and. So there must be universal steps to follow in order to deal better with being stuck with 10 – 15 other people in a 4m2 steel cage, yeah? Here’s six:
1. Do not panic. Easier said than done, but definitely true. Do not panic. Keep calm always. Unless the cables snap and you tumble down 50 storeys high. Think Ponte Towers.
2. Avert the awkward silence by talking. Talk about the lift being stuck, otherwise anything else will be awkwarder.
3. Anyone who puts on ear phones with loud music should be asked to desist from that antisocial, selfish activity. There is a time and place for everything, and earphones are not for when you’re stuck in an 4m2 steel cage with 16 other people
4. Report clearly when you seek help through the intercom. No clowning around. Also, no diva/ divo tendencies. Elevators don’t discriminate, anyone can get stuck – ask Vogue’s Editor at Large Andre Leon Talley. No amount of “Call Oscar de la Renta and tell him Andre Leon Talley is stuck in an elevator” will help.
5. Know that the time it will take to get help will probably be about twice as much as what you will be told. If the person on the intercom says 10 minutes, be prepared to wait for 20. I have read of people who’ve been stuck in an elevator for up to two days. So pack plenty of patience.
6. Never ever get into a crowded elevator. Ever.