Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Where is she? A real life mystery finale.

(I'm posting short installments of this true life experience. String them together and guess, where the main character is stuck.)To catch up and read the other three installments, click here and here and here. )

Silence. Although she was surrounded by people, no one said a word to her, to each other or to anyone on their cell phones. A phone. Isn’t that what everyone calls for in an emergency? Yet, here they all were stuck and no one was talking into their phones. Texting, yes. Talking, no.

Everyone around her seemed so patient and calm. She was hot and frustrated and tired of standing around waiting. But she wasn’t scared. Honest. Her life wasn’t in danger, yet. So, she wasn’t afraid. Ok. Maybe she was a little.

Who would’ve thought that going to a talk by a local mystery author downtown would get her stuck like this?

As she drove to the new venue through rush hour traffic, all she hoped for was a good parking space and an interesting lecture with a little insight from a published writer.

She got both. She found a great parking place. She found the building. The front door was locked and if it hadn’t been for the 3 students in the lobby, she wouldn’t have gotten to the lecture at all. Looking back, that might have been a very good thing. Maybe the locked door was a sign that she should have walked away while she could.

Now, she couldn’t walk anywhere. She was locked behind a door with a group of strangers. Yes, she could see how this could be the perfect set up for a play, movie or even a mystery book. There were more giggles as the women writers in the group came to that idea. She was not laughing.

And after she had yelled for someone to call 911, a muffled voice called back that the fire department was on the way. It was then, after all that waiting one of the women finally decided to open the call box and use the phone. She grabbed the handset and dialed the number printed on it.

“Hello?” she called into the plastic phone in the wall.

The texting in the group came to a halt as everyone leaned in to listen.

“Yes. We are stuck. The service number under the handset? 54823. Yes. That’s correct. What? Wait!” she jerked the handset away from her ear. A look of frustration turning to fury crossed her face as she faced the group, “They put me on HOLD!”

“What?” came a chorus from the group.

“Oh, wait a minute, she just said something.” The woman’s face again changed from stormy to calm and back again as she listened and replied, “Yes. We need assistance. It’s been over 45 minutes, now. Portland, Oregon. Ok. But, wait. Wait!”

She looked around wearily and said, “They’re reporting the situation to the company, and sending personnel. But they are in Illinois and can’t directly contact the local contractor here in Portland, Oregon.”

A general sigh went through the group. The woman at the front of the group took off her coat, brushed her hair away from her face and stared down at her feet. The woman with the phone went to hang it up but the heavy set woman next her, grabbed it instead.

“I won’t be ignored,” she said as she punched the emergency button again. “Yes. We are stuck. 54823. Don’t!” She turned to the group, “Hold, again.” Back into the handset she yelled, “Hello? Hello?” Her face beat red with rage, “It was a man this time, but I don’t think he’s coming back to the phone.”

“Great,” said the guy in the back.

“Well, at least we know that the phone works,” said the woman in the corner.

“Yeah, a lot of good that did,” grumbled the young woman with the bathroom jitters.
Groans went around the group. Eyes looked up and down. And a feeling of tired resignation filled the warm, stuffy air. She felt for her chocolate hearts and her cell phone, they might not help her survive, but it was something to hold on to. After some shifting around, everyone seemed to settle in again. They were stuck and there was nothing else to do but wait. Cell phones came out and the soft ticking of texting was the only sound she could hear. Again, no one moved or said a word.

She felt the walls shudder. The floor dropped a few feet and thudded to a stop.
Shocked silence exploded into a flurry of squeals. As the big metal doors started to part, everyone moved toward the crack, trying to fit in their hands and pull it further open.

A muffled voice from above said, “Stand away, please. Keep your hands and arms away from the opening,” the man shouted to us. “Once it moves, it could snap back and I don’t want anyone’s arms damaged.”

Hands moved down as we all moved carefully back. A feeling of relief, mixed with fear surged around the group. She was still stuck, but hoped it would end without anyone getting hurt. She looked around as everyone waited again. The gap widened again, this time revealing the two inch thick steel doors that had trapped them.

As the doors slowly parted, she saw the floor rise above her. Shoes, boots and pant legs were all she could see at first, there was only a three foot opening now. But it was enough.

She could see the carpeted hallway above her head and hands reaching down to pull her up and out. On her hands and knees, she crawled across the carpeted hallway away and stood up. One by one they all climbed out of their trap. It was a simple, calm, organized rescue. No heroics necessary. No one was injured. They were stuck in an elevator between the third and second floors in an old downtown building. And now they were free.

Still, as she walked out into the crisp night air, everyone chatting about how lucky and hungry and late they were, she knew two things. One, she’d think twice about going to another mystery author lecture, she didn’t need another evening wondering whether she’d make it out alive. Two, next time, she’d take the stairs.

She liked reading about a characters getting stuck in an elevator. Being the one stuck in the elevator for hours, she didn’t like at all.

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