Today’s Daily Prompt was “You’re stuck in an elevator with an intriguing stranger. Write this scene.” or alternately “You’re stuck in an elevator with a person from your past. Write this scene.” for non-fiction writers.
Now that’s what I call a cliché. Two people getting stuck in an elevator to force a social situation. At least on ‘Friends’ Chandler was stuck in an ATM vestibule with Jill Goodacre (who was a Victoria Secret’s model at the time if memory serves) rather than a lift.
The strange thing about it is that I was actually stuck in an elevator once and it was with one other person.
In the mid-nineties I had a terrible time. My marriage collapsed, my father died and my ex-wife moved to her hometown, Newcastle, a hundred miles North of where I lived taking our daughter, Jessica, with her.
That meant doing the every second weekend thing with long drives and I was particularly tired that Saturday morning as I went through the busy supermarket with Jessi.
After we went through the checkouts we had to get back to the car. Usually I parked out the front of the supermarket but on that busy morning it was full and we had gone to the garage under the supermarket which meant catching a hydraulic lift down one level with our trolley to get back.
It had dropped about half way when it shuddered and stopped. I was now in a stuck elevator with a four-year old child. At first I thought nothing and hit the ‘B’ button again, then I tried the close door button and ‘B’.
It’s at this point that anxiety starts to climb. I press the alarm button but don’t hear anything — tighten the knots a little.
“Daddy, what’s happening?”
“The lift’s just stopped for a moment sweet, won’t be long.”
I opened the small door and lifted the emergency phone. I lifted it to my ear to hear a message from the phone company telling me the phone had been disconnected. At that I suddenly felt more than a little annoyed at Woolworths.
I never thought I was claustrophobic. If you’d asked I probably would have told you getting stuck in a lift wouldn’t be too bad. I do get anxious sometimes — social situations, performance at work, relationships, they can all cause anxiety.
Here I was in a situation that seemed custom made for anxiety. Suddenly my stomach was in knots and my palms were sweaty.
“Will it be long, Daddy”
Oh God, I can’t be anxious, I can’t be nervous. I’m stuck here with a four-year old. This could turn bad extremely quickly. All it takes is one hint of my fear and I’ve got a scared, screaming child stuck with me in a small metal box.
This is real parenthood. The marvellous playtimes, cooking meals, even the dirty nappies and the tantrums in the middle of the street — the things that seem hard — they’re not the real thing. Where the rubber really hits the road is when things turn, there’s real trouble and you would love nothing more than to scream obscenities, break down into tears or complain to someone how scared or angry you are and you know you can’t. Right there in that moment it’s not about you, it’s all about your child.
It can happen in a hospital waiting room. It might be a car accident. It happened to someone dear to me when she was hiking in Tasmania with her son and realised after she took a wrong turn that it was either a long walk back they way they had come as the late afternoon got dark in the cold and wet of the rain or over the scary looking rope bridge in front of them and soon back to the car.
For me it was in that lift, right in that moment. It was a strange moment, the anxiety was there gripping my stomach, fear yammering in the back of my brain but it was all behind a wall as I soothed Jessi.
“Is there anyone in there? Are you OK?” came the muffled voice from somewhere above.
“Yes, me and my daughter, we’re fine.” I replied.
“The mechanic will be here in about ten minutes and we’ll get you out. Not long.”
“Did you hear that Jess, not long. We’ll be good.”
And so it was. It might have felt longer than ten minutes to me but a little of the fear was gone and soon we left the lift and took our groceries home. Woolworths might have screwed up but I think Daddy done good.