Tag Archives: enclosed spaces

The time we didn’t get trapped

I think the trees have it out for me. I don’t know why. Sure I drive a car, but I always recycle and compost and care about the environment. Maybe nobody has told any trees that. Or maybe trees are just cheeky sometimes. One balmy, summer day I was hiking with my partner and came across one of the most mischievous tree’s I’ve ever seen. I had wandered off the trail a little to pee when this tree ensnared my foot with its roots. When I tried to stand up, I found my foot was trapped under a root. I fell forward, pants still at my ankles, ass in full view of anyone who walks by, and face-planted into the dirt. I writhed around for a bit on the downward slope and was unable to even get my pants back up, let alone stand up. Just when the captivity was starting to cause me to panic, my partner had to yank my entangled foot to freedom before I managed to stand up. By this time, a few people had passed by and one offered his help, much to my chagrin. If my partner hadn’t been there, I would have had to accept the help of a complete stranger with my entire lower half exposed. Lets just say I’m no “stranger” to emotional hang-ups to random situations.

I was on my way to an appointment in a 16-floor building when I saw a woman hovering by the elevators without actually boarding one. With eyes wide like a hound dog, she asked sheepishly if I would ride the elevator with her. She was too scared of elevators to ride alone. Knowing there had to be some trauma there, I agreed to ride 8 extra floors with her. Upon entering the elevator, she grabbed the handle bar until her knuckles turned white and her hands cramped up. It turns out she had been stuck in an elevator three times in the past year. She said the worst time was when she was alone, the emergency call button wasn’t working, and her phone was dead. The minutes past like hours while her anxiety and claustrophobia steadily increased. By the time she was rescued, her breathing was labored and she was in such a panic that paramedics were called. She told this story so quickly that we still had 6 floors to go. I soothed her nervous fidgeting by showing her my phone had full bars and I could call for help immediately if anything happened. Also it has a really fun fish game on it. When we finally arrived at her floor she gave me a big hug and said she hoped her next riding companion was as understanding as I was. And I didn’t even have the chance to tell her my tree root, naked ass story. Not that it’s anything to brag about.

The time elevators had better health care than U.S. citizens

One recent morning, I arrived at the bottom of the 16-floor medical building I work in to find all four elevators were out of service. Right as my finger was about to press the “up” button, a woman’s voice, dripping with frustration and fatigue, told me the elevators were broken. Right on cue, a nearby man told me that the doors from the stairs require a key card. His heavy breathing told me this fact came right from the source. So I sat on the floor, resigned to the fact that I would be late to work. Building maintenance showed up shortly after to announce the elevators weren’t working (no shit, Sherlock), and the elevator company was on-site working as fast as they could but they didn’t know when the elevators would be restored. With an attitude of accomplishment like they had just solved world hunger, maintenance announced that a staff member would hold each door open so we may all get to our appointments. A young woman with a 3-6 month old baby asleep against her chest looked astonished that maintenance acted as if her 16 floor stair climb were a gift they gave to her. Clucks of disapproval and frustration echoed through the small crowd that had now amassed at the elevators. This irritation escalated when an elderly woman with a cane was told to climb the stairs to her appointment. “Why am I not surprised,” a disgruntled voice mumbled next to me, “It is the American health system.” My smirk of approval broke the Seattle freeze ice and we began to chat.

As it turned out, Eric* recently had a medical emergency in France requiring x-ray’s, blood tests, and an exam at an ER. Even though he wasn’t a French citizen, he was treated better than most appointments he had in the U.S. When it came time for his bill, he braced himself for the damage. The doctor, full of guilt, said she would unfortunately have to bill him $29 USD. After quite a bit of stammering and checking that he heard correctly, a relieved Eric paid his bill and left feeling bewildered.

Toward the end of Eric’s story, elevator car 3 (most creative name ever!), which had been stuck open this whole time, finally closed. I guess it collected enough flies. I’m choosing to believe the subsequent dings it uttered were saying “yum yum.” Then car 3 opened its doors and lit up its lights, signalling it was ready to resume its normal job. Perhaps this snafu had just been a lunch break? The first wave of people, myself included, were packed into the elevator like sardines. Just as my claustrophobia and elevator fear started kicking in, the doors closed. Car 3 then let out a screech like it was attempting to give birth to a baby, stopped, and after what seemed like a year, opened its doors. I shot out of the elevator, as plummeting to my death was not on the agenda.

Once I was safe on the floor of the lobby once again, I decided I should share my experience with medical care abroad with Eric. While scuba diving in Australia, I surfaced in a swarm of jellyfish and was stung at least 6 times in 30 seconds. That was the day I learned I was allergic to that kind of jellyfish venom. The total cost of my emergency treatment was $75. Eric and I agreed that universal healthcare treated people like they matter. Meanwhile, here in the U.S., the elevators were getting faster, more thorough care than humans do.

After half an hour of waiting, I decided to climb the stairs to the 8th floor, despite my hip injury and asthma. I had to stop in the middle and take my inhaler. By the time I reached the 8th floor, my hip had seized up and I was limping. But I made it! I did something hard and didn’t quit. I was there to open the office and hold down the fort until everyone else made it up. I was a hero…..until my coworker stepped off the working elevator about 10 minutes after I got to the 8th floor. In retrospect, I probably wasn’t quite hero material anyway.

 

*Name has been changed.

The time I shared an elevator ride

Construction sites are scary. Every time I drive under the mess of metal and concrete that will one day become the new light rail station in Northgate, I feel a tiny bit of relief when nothing falls on me. In my defense, I was traumatized when the kid gets crushed by a windowpane in Final Destination 2. While we’re on the topic, another character in the movie died in an elevator. This brings me to my highly anticipated first elevator conversation blog entry. Yay!

The office I work in is located on the eighth floor of a building with…lots more floors above mine. Yes that is an official way to measure the height of a building. You can also estimate its altitude by how many elevators it has. This one has four wonderful concrete shafts perfect for isolating strangers in small places, thus soliciting so many awkward Seattle freeze moments. To anyone who may have pulled an Ant-Man and became a fly on the wall, I hope you took a video of this particular elevator ride. That’s right, the elevator we took was a working construction zone, complete with dust and unfinished walls. So take my fear of construction zones, mix in my fear of confined spaces, and add 6 other people to make it cozy, and then I will need those deep breathing exercises people use to calm down. Thankfully I didn’t go too far into the rabbit hole before one of my fellow elevator residents broke the silence with “why aren’t the walls done?” Its part of the construction that has taken over the 8th floor…is what I should have said. Instead, I said “it smells good.” I meant the wood boards that were serving as temporary elevator walls smelled good, of course. Everyone was too busy looking at their phones to really notice my brilliant ramblings thus proving the Seattle freeze actually has an upside. So the big awkward elevator ride, my Seattle freeze white whale, happened. And it was fine. And I wasn’t swallowed by a giant mammal so that’s a win.