Today the Daily Prompt is “Elevator.” They actually have a more specific approach to elevators in mind, but they’re not the boss of me. One time I got caught in an elevator trap, and possibly a psychological experiment, parallel dimension, or both. You be the judge:
The reason we were driving to Cincinnati was that Rob’s sister was down there with a couple of friends of hers. At eighteen years of age or so, they were a couple years younger than us, and Rob got it into his head that we should drive down there and make sure they didn’t have any dudes in there with them, because that was obviously some of our business. Did it occur to us that once we got down there, they’d have some dudes with them? I don’t know, but we got a case of beer, and piled into DJ’s car.
In a very nice nod to responsibility, DJ drank zero beers on the way down there, while Rob and I pretended his car was our own personal cocktail lounge. His sister was down there for some kind of mind-bogglingly elaborate shopping trip, which okay, they were girls. Shopping was an acceptable motivation for pretty much anything. We drove straight into downtown Cincinnati using only information from Rob’s brain to arrive at the proper hotel, then we stumbled into the front door thinking, man, sure could use a bathroom about now.
Well, let’s get up to the room, use that one. Our experiences as knucklehead twenty year-olds had taught us that people in hotels – or nice places in general – had not much patience for us, usually identifying us as knuckleheads with a single glance.
It was a big hotel, with a lot of polished marble and high ceilings and plush carpets. This notion of driving two hours away to pay what must have been a chunk of change for an overnight room, all so one could go shopping at different stores – this was baffling to us. Nonetheless, Big Brother Protocol was in effect; we kept moving.
Rob had the room number written down but I don’t remember it. But it was on the 14th floor. I remember that because we found a long, quiet hallway and followed it to an elevator, and once we boarded the elevator, and the doors closed, I said, “Isn’t the 14th floor really the 13th floor? For triskadekaphobic reasons?”
Yes. We checked, and the numbers went straight from 12 to 14. Good lord – awfully superstitious for 1992, which seemed at the time of course, very modern.
Ah well, 14 it is. We hit the button and did potty dances while the elevator rose silently, then the doors opened and the three of us strode confidently off the elevator, and then we all produced frowns as the doors slid shut behind us.
This wasn’t a hotel. We were in some kind of vestibule with four elevators in it, including the one behind us. To our right and to our left were offices – an architectural firm and a law firm – with heavy oak doors lined by vertical windows. Next to the elevator behind us, a metal ashtray was mounted to the wall, and along the architect’s doors sat a potted plant about the size and shape of R2D2, but it looked nothing like him.
We all put our hands on our hips and Rob, the tallest and shaggiest of the three of us said, “Huh.”
Then we spent ten minutes pressing the button to call the elevator, but the elevator would not respond. It was very, very quiet in the vestibule.
DJ was a skinny little guy like me, except he cared how he looked so he had some product in his hair and was wearing a non-hobo shirt and had shaved. He said, “I guess since it’s after business hours, maybe they lock the elevators, so you can’t call them?”
“They should maybe lock the number 14 button then,” I suggested. ”This is a problem.”
We all had beers in our pockets, so we popped them open and sat down for a minute. I looked at the potted plant and said, “I’m going to stand up in about two minutes and pee in that potted plant right there, if you guys want to think about what else to look at.”
We didn’t have phones to look at, so that was something to mull over.
“Huh.” Rob said again.
A half an hour later, all of us had peed in the plant, and I imagine there was an odor. Next to one of the elevators was an emergency panel which would only open if you broke the emergency glass. It was either hang around there all night - or possibly all weekend since it was Friday night - or break the glass, so we crushed our beer cans, stuffed them in the butt compartment of the wall-mounted ash tray, and then I broke the glass with my elbow and opened the panel.
Ah – an emergency phone inside. I picked it up and said, “I’m terribly sorry, but we’ve selected the wrong elevator and now we’re trapped on the 14th floor of the business side of your hotel. Can someone..”
But the line was dead. Of course the line was dead.
One more beer each apiece, and the rest was still out in the car. We sat on the floor like you see people doing at the airport when their flight’s delayed, killing our beers and alternating between frowning at each other and cracking up.
“You’d think if you break the emergency glass there’d be some kind of alarm somewhere,” DJ mused. ”You’d think that would do something, rather than just being glass.”
I said, “I would think you would turn off the elevator if it went to Weekend Business Limbo.”
Rob said, “Still, my sister is on this floor of this building, just waaaaaaaay around the other side.”
“Close,” I agreed. “We came very close.”
It all became surreal, like a Twilight Zone episode. Was this some kind of experiment? Were we being watched to see how we’d handle the situation? Were we really dolls in a Salvation Army barrel?
Suddenly I found myself staring at the door of the law office. We had been sitting in the vestibule for an hour and a half, and not long before, I’d realized that the hinges to the law office doors were on our side.
I said, “I vote we take one of those doors off its hinges.”
Getting up to look through the window next to them, I could clearly see an “”Exit” sign, above another door in there among the desks and cubicles, with the word “STAIRS” on it.
DJ had a pocket knife. We used it to pop the pins out of the hinges, and pulled the heavy door right out of the deadbolt locking mechanism, and leaned it against the wall. Aware that we were officially breaking into a law office, I hit the stairs running, down several flights of stairs before finding an unlocked door. I blasted through it to a short hallway, which led to another vestibule, same layout, similar plant, similar ash tray.
Tapping the call button made a pleasant chiming sound, and the elevator arrived in seconds. I jumped on it, hit 14, and the doors opened up to DJ and Rob standing there, blithely wondering if I was going to be me or a carload of cops. I said, “Hold the door.”
So DJ propped the door open while Rob and I fit the heavy law office door back onto its deadbolt, then into its hinges. We tapped the pins down easily, and I had to use my heel for the bottom one, then we bumbled back into the elevator, hit the button for the ground floor, and down we went the way we came. When the doors opened, we blarneyed past a guy in a black suit speaking into a radio, but he said nothing to us and we located the correct elevator, found his sister, confirmed there were no dudes there, just shopping bags, and got diagnosed as idiots by the three people we’d come here to check on.
They might have been right, and they might have been wrong – it sure felt like a psychological experiment to us, and it was a full day before we shook the surreal feeling – but we never heard a word about the elevator or the break-in, and if Rob’s sister had any unsavory dude-related plans, well, we took care of that.