Stuck in an elevator

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Amanda Barnett and Jordan Rae Lucas at the Spring National College Media Convention in New York City. Preface photo/Jordan Rae Lucas
Amanda Barnett and Jordan Rae Lucas at the Spring National College Media Convention in New York City. Preface photo/Jordan Rae Lucas

The Preface takes Manhattan


I have said it before and I’ll say it again: pop culture prepares us for life. Movies and television, books and music all play a role in forming our expectations for certain everyday experiences.

Take the classic trope of being trapped in an elevator. We have all undoubtedly seen this before. We know how it works. The elevator, always full, suddenly stops, stuck between floors. It’s normally played for laughs, with the characters in the elevator being at odds with one another or someone going into labor.

After being trapped for God-knows-how-long, the characters emerge from their ordeal no worse for wear and bonded forever by the experience.

I learned on a recent trip to New York City with my fellow writer, Amanda Barnett, that these warm, friendly storylines are not the first that come to mind when one is actually trapped in a crowded elevator.

My first thoughts were, naturally, of horror movies set in stuck elevators like “Devil,” in which one of the imprisoned characters is Satan himself. Amanda’s first thoughts, based on her reaction, seemed to be of the walls-closing-in, running-out-of-oxygen variety.

Our elevator story is a little different and requires some extra explaining. We were stuck in an elevator. When I tell this story, everyone seems to have the classic idea of the elevator car stopping between floors. That would have been preferable to what actually happened.

This elevator didn’t stop. At all. On any floor. That was the problem. Amanda, myself and four others were all trying to get to the lower lobby of the hotel and no amount of button pressing would get the car to stop on that floor.

The bell would ding, the doors wouldn’t open and the elevator whisked itself up 22 floors. Once again, the doors didn’t open. And we went all the way back down. This happened three or four times.

All the while, I was imagining the Tower of Terror ride at Disney World, a “Twilight Zone” themed attraction about a hotel haunted by the ghosts that fell to their deaths when the elevator cable broke. The ride takes you all the way to the top and then drops you at high speed.

While we weren’t ricocheting from one floor to the other, one of our fellow passengers was saying, out loud, that we would be trapped in the elevator going up and down for the rest of our lives.

Amanda was standing next to me commanding someone, anyone, to “call someone! Does anyone have back up?”

The group was in varying states of rising panic, myself included, but I somehow decided the solution was to start smashing the “open door” button.

Amanda pointed out I was blindly hitting the “close door” button. I adjusted and almost immediately after pressing the right button, the doors opened on our floor.

We informed a hotel employee of our experience a few hours later. No one else had reported the super weird occurrence but he didn’t seem surprised. He merely informed us that living in New York City means getting stuck in elevators. So, Amanda, I guess we’ve been initiated.

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