Earlier today I was talking with Ian during our usual lunch time outing when he told me he it was about time one of the two elevators in his condo building was finally working again. The one had been non-operational for a spell and they had finally repaired it. Leading up to this, that particular elevator would groan, creak, and otherwise make unpleasant and unsettling sounds during its use. When I left Ian’s place today, I had a 50% chance of getting that elevator when I called one up from the 9th floor condo. Today, as with most days, that was the one I rode. Enter near death experience: elevator edition.

Every time I get in that particular elevator, a brief moment passes as the doors close and I wonder if it’ll hold as it takes down to the second level where my car is parked. Having just been repaired, one might think it’d be oiled clean and ready to ride. Apparently the elevator didn’t get that memo.

As I hit the buttons and the doors slid closed, I stood off to my customary side and waiting for it to descend. The elevator starts its motion downward and gives a groan – ah, little has changed after all. But then the entire car shakes as the elevator lurches to a halt, jarring down then up mere inches from its start. From above I can hear the gears almost grinding as the cable pulls it back. A nervous glance as the floor indicator: still on 9. The elevator moves again, then gives another lurch. I step to the side and grab the railing. Another jarring motion and a protest from above. I scan the buttons, but suddenly none of them make sense. I hit 2 then 9, door close. No, those aren’t right. Another volt. Panic sets in. I find the alarm, which just appears to sound a bell while I hold it. Not what I want. Still on 9. More halting movement interspersed with that terrible, portending noise. I find the call button, hit it, then buzz the bell some more. I don’t expect that to accomplish anything, but it’s there, and I’m stuck.

Ringing. It’s the phone calling out. My finger hovers over the panel and a prayer forms on my lips. Moments later – what feels like forever, but must have been four rings on the line – a voice over the speaker, female. She says something, I don’t know what. More movement, more noise. I tell her what’s happening, my desperation thick in my voice. She asks if I’ve gotten off yet. I think to myself, what is she talking about? No, I’m still stuck and it’s still half-moving, I tell her.

Suddenly, silence. Then, movement, but this time smooth, and not followed by any noise beyond the gentle, steady hum of the car moving down the chute, and the blissful beep of each passing floor. 8, 7, 6. The car is moving. 5, 4, 3. Almost there. 2. The car eases to a stop. The woman says something about notifying someone emergency related, perhaps something about calling it off. Okay. She thanks me for calling it in and asks me to alert management. My legs are Jell-O. I hit door close instead of open and I’m teetering on the threshold wanting to finish the conversation. The doors stay open anyway. She hangs up, I walk out.

Next time, I take the stairs.