Monday, February 27, 2006

The Elevator

You know how it is when something bad is happening to someone else ... but it's kind of ironic and darkly amusing, so there is laughter mixed in with any serious conversations you might try and have during 'the time of difficulty?

Well ... I was talking with my father this morning when Gert called on the cell phone to tell me, in subdued tones, that he was stuck in the elevator just below our floor. I went out and tried pressing the button then listened while he phoned the elevator people, the landlord, and his work ... A guy from the floor below started pressing the elevator button, so I called out that it was broken and of course, being a Belgian he switched to fluent English and we discussed the problem.

It turned out he'd been trapped in the same elevator for an hour recently, and holding back giggles that had nothing to do with malicious humour, I relayed the message to Gert. Then the guy added 'And it's rush hour now ...'

The neighbour said that the cleaning lady had a elevator key but that she lived in the next building and no one was sure where. Then he thought about it some more, asking where the elevator was stuck ... I told him. He said, 'Mmmmm better not to have her unlock it, as it would be very bad for him if the elevator started moving while he was climbing out.'

I think it was the classic European understatedness of the whole situation that was making me want to laugh. Everyone was very serious.

Ironically, in the past, Gert had been the one who had phoned the landlord to inform him whenever the elevator was broken, whenever the elevator was making an incredible amount of noise, and to relay what the elevator inspector had recently told me ... that the elevator ventilator was broken and that there was a risk of it overheating which would cause ... yes, the elevator to breakdown between floors.

Before I go on, we do live in a nice middleclass neighbourhood and the building has more than a few elderly residents in it. There's no hint that the landlord or the elevator might be unreliable. The elevator inspector had actually started the conversation with me a couple of weeks ago, asking how I stood the noise caused by the malfunctioning elevator. I had rolled my eyes and said, 'Well we've made phone calls but it only stays repaired for a few days'. When he explained the problem, I had been more than slightly horrified and asked about the risk of the elevator cable snapping, causing things to plunge to the basement. No no no, he had said reassuringly, it's a vertical car, this can't happen. I chose to believe him although this may have been a mistake, as the District House people were also lovely and reassuring, both saying that I would only be 'in process' for 6-8 weeks. Hmmm that was 23 weeks ago ... it seems that lovely, seemingly professional people can tell very credible lies.

Anyway, after 25 minutes of standing in the small dark elevator, Gert was released. The power had been completely out and the technician seemed very concerned that the emergency light hadn't come on ...

You know, it couldn't have happened to a better person, they would have had to peel me off the ceiling or revived me after I'd used ALL the oxygen ...

5 comments:

Alison said...

Well, that would be my personal nightmare and that of all the people who would have to listen to my ear-splitting screams. By the way... I ate to say it but Ahem... I told you so... :)

woman wandering said...

Indeed you did ... I chose to believe the professionals because I intensely dislike climbing the almost vertical stairwell to the top ... sigh, I don't think I'll ever step foot in that elevator again.

elevatorman said...

maybe it's a bit reassuring to know that elevators (even in belgium) are supplied with a safety device which catches the cradle within one or two meters in case the engine breaks down or cables break. it might take a while before they'll have you out but you'll survive for sure.

elevatorman said...

maybe it's a bit reassuring to know that elevetors (even in belgium) are supplied with a safety device which will catch the cradle within one or two meters in case the engine breaks down or a cable breaks. it might take a while before they'll have you out but you'll survive for sure.

woman wandering said...

Thanks elevator man ... it was very reassuring to read of the safety device. Alison needed to read of the device too, she has walked the stairs here, just to avoid using the elevator.