Our lives are filled with many ups and downs. And sometimes they are filled with neither. Because there is a power outage. And you are stuck in an unmoving elevator. Let’s start back at the beginning…
When I was eleven years old, I joined my sister on the grand adventure of visiting her first potential college. As fate would have it, we were visiting Kent State University. The same windy, humble abode filled with squirrels and people wearing thrift store sweaters that I would eventually call home 10 years later during my own college years.
Here is some crucial information about Kent that you must understand before we proceed with this story…
In Greek mythology, we learn that Boreas is the God of Wind and Winter and he most likely wanted to wife up someone else’s girl and then he turned evil and wore a cloak and said the word “banish” a bunch of times and angered the wrong people and one of them was Apollo the God of the Sun and so Apollo rode in on a chariot and said “tell him Boreas bye” in a bad Beyonce accent and then Boreas was doomed to never come to Ohio again but his sadness lingered and it now permeates throughout the land during the winter season making us all cold and unhappy.
Or, in modern times we would say…ITS REALLY FREAKIN COLD AND WINDY IN OHIO AND WE DON’T LIKE IT BUT ITS FINE BECAUSE THE WARRIORS BLEW A 3-1 LEAD IN THE FINALS AND LEAD-BLOWING IS WORSE THAN WIND-BLOWING SOOOO YA.
It’s the year 2005. I’m eleven and awkward. My sister, dad and I set off on our college visit adventure in our minivan (we never actually owned a minivan- I’m just setting the scene) and drove to Ohio’s very own hub of excitement- the Holiday Inn of Kent.
It was storming outside. Not a drizzle storm. Not an “all you need is a light jacket” storm. It was a massive storm. Like, Bill Paxton was probably there somewhere tracking a twister.
I felt like we were in the movie Clue. We arrived at a late hour to an Inn while electricity was flickering and thunder was crackling and old wooden floor boards were creaking.
Honestly, I bet that somewhere there was even a butler lurking in some hidden corridor, whispering feverishly in a British accent to a mysterious man on the other end of a phone call. “Yes, Winston. Yes, I have the….the…package you asked for…I will meet you in the West Wing. Tell no one of our correspondence.”
After checking in, we headed to our room. We partook in the age-old debate. Elevator? Stairs? Elevator? Stairs?
And then, we made the decision. To take that very machine that would eventually become, in my mind, the ROOT of all EVIL.
ALSO, PLEASE ALLOW ME TO JUMP IN AND SAY THAT THIS HOTEL HAD THREE FLOORS. Three. Three floors. And we were going to Floor 2. Fitbits weren’t invented yet though so we were not yet concerned with how many steps we took each day.
We could have easily taken the steps, there was literally a grand staircase. The staircase was probably the NICEST thing in that Holiday Inn. Yet, I spoke four words that would come to haunt me for years to come.
It was four words that shocked the world. No, not “Sing to me, Paolo”…the other four words that shocked the world.
I said, “Let’s take the elevator.”
We stepped into the elevator like normal people doing a normal task. We hit the button for Floor 2. The elevator started to ascend, and then WAM BAM.
A crack of thunder. A flash of light. And then….nothing. We heard the unmistakeable silence of a power outage.
The elevator went black.
10 Year old Me: Daddy??? What happened??
Dad: *attempting to sound calm and upbeat* I think the power went out, Buddy…It will be back on in a sec!
(one sec later)
Me: Dad??? What do we do????
Me: *sobs uncontrollably*
Dad: *shouting at closed door* HEY! Is anyone out there?! My daughter and I are stuck in here!
Outside world: ….
Me: *continues sobbing uncontrollably*
Dad: *attempting to sound calm and upbeat* Gabrielle, don’t panic. This kind of thing happens all the time. They are going to get us out any minute.
Me: How do you know that!? What if we are stuck in here for the REST OF OUR LIVES?
Dad: Well if that’s the case, good thing we have our suitcases! *lightly chuckles*
Dad: *pounds on door* HEY IS ANYONE OUT THERE!!!?
Manager: *in VERY thick Indian accent* Hello? Hello! Is everyone okay in there?
Dad: My daughter and I are stuck in here! Any chance you can open the door?
Manager: Yes, yes of course! We working on it! Generator broken. Fire department will not answer. I brought janitor along to try and open door.
The longest five minutes passes and the janitor successfully pries the door open enough to let in a small streak of light. I can see the outside world. The world I once belonged to…before I was trapped in an awful Holiday Inn transportation device.
Manager: Okay, fire department will be here soon! In meantime, I know exactly what will make you feel better!
Dad: Oh, great! Thanks! (Smiles at me as if to say, “See! Things are looking up! Just not us because we’re stuck between floors”)
*Manager proceeds to slide ten, small Holiday Inn pool towels through the door*
Me: …What? Why did he think that would make us feel better….?
Two hours pass by. During this time, I play Pokemon Sapphire on my Gameboy and fearfully wonder if I will have to become homeschooled inside of this elevator and wear the pool towel as a cap and have to receive my diploma through the crack in the door while the hotel lobby plays Pomp and Circumstance. Every once in a while I break out into hysteric sobs because I was the most dramatic eleven year old in the world.
During these two hours, every time the Manager checks in on us, he calls me “Polly”.
Manager: Are you doing okay in there? Polly, can I get you a water?
Me: Who is Polly?
Me: Do you know when the fire department will be here?
Manager: Not yet Polly, but I’m doing everything I can to speed this up!
Me: My name’s not Polly!!!!!
Manager: What did you say, Polly?
Time passes. I miss grilled cheese. I miss the sight of snow falling in the sodium glow of streetlights. I miss instant messaging my friends. I miss Jesse McCartney.
Around the 3rd hour, Manager returns excitedly.
Manager: GOOD NEWS!
Dad: Are they here?
Manager: Not yet. But, I got you some more pool towels!
Me: WHY DO YOU KEEP GIVING US POOL TOWELS???
Manager: Anytime, Polly!
Around the third hour, just as I have all but accepted the inevitable truth that I would be living in a 5×6 ft box for the rest of my life, I see a radiant, delicate, GLORIOUS stream of light pouring through the ceiling of the elevator.
Me: Father! Father! Could it be a mirage?? Will we be saved at long last or must we forever dwell here within this box???
Manager: Yes! Hello, Polly! What did you say?
Dad: She’s just joking. Can we climb out the top????
Manager: Yes, yes! I am going to stick ladder down there for you.
The fire department stuck a ladder down into the elevator. In that moment, I felt like Mulan when she was handed the Sword of Shan Yu. The ladder was a symbol of my strength and persistence. A symbol of light, rescuing me from the darkness that had quite literally surrounded me.
And just like that, everything was back to normal. It was truly a coming-of-age moment for me. Several philosophers have speculated that “Catcher in the Rye” was loosely based off of my experience in that very elevator.
Sweet people of WordPress, I leave you with this final piece of advice. Life…is filled with a series of ups and downs. Sometimes you are going up. Sometimes you are going down. And sometimes you are stuck in a Holiday Inn electrical machine going nowhere at all.
But here’s my thing…It’s not always about the destination of arriving at the third floor. It’s about the journey to the third floor.
Did I enjoy being stuck in that elevator? No. Did I ever stop crying? No. Did I understand why the manager would not stop giving us pool towels? Absolutely not. But, I DO know that the experience had a silver lining. When we went to Mike’s Place for dinner that night, the staff heard we were the “out of town people that got stuck in an elevator”, so we got free appetizers. Nothing says “sorry bout it” quite like trays of free fried pickles.
Enjoy the ride,