Sometimes, way before the weekend comes, I know what I want to write about. I plan it out—sometimes to match up with specific holidays and other times to avoid doing anything offensive on those days. (April Fool’s and Easter was a tough one this year, since it fell on the same day.)
Other times things just happen.
Like last week, when I was heading home from work after a long day. It was hot and I just wanted to put my feet up. I think I had had a poor night’s sleep the night before and we had a meeting in one of those too-warm-for-mid-afternoon rooms where you just want to close your eyes. And they had big cookies—good but deadly for the sugar crash. So I took mine with me—figured it’d make an excellent dessert later on.
Left work and took the usual route home, and I’m sure I’m like everyone else whose commute could be 20 minutes or could be two hours depending on what-all is out there. So you have a routine as you pack yourself up…cell phone? Check. Water bottle? Check. IPad? All necessary keys? Yep.
Good to go.
Wait. Do you have to pee? This can be a very critical issue, especially if you get stuck in traffic. On this particular day I thought about it and decided I was decidedly at about a six, which isn’t a problem even if there’s a delay.
Except I hadn’t planned on the kind of delay I was about to endure.
I got home in about 15 or 20 minutes—good time for a commute at the height of the
evening rush; I know, I know, there are some people groaning right now—and yes, I know what rush hours can be like in other parts of the world. Judith and I have hour long conversations while she drives home in California on occasion (and that’s after she’s hit the highway outside of Berkeley), and I remember a time when I left New York City once at 3 pm for Long Island—BIG mistake—the usual two to three hour commute to eastern Long Island took six (good thing there are exits along the way for pit stops).
Even here in the sprawling expanse that is Calgary, there are people who make lengthy commutes every single day.
Confession time: in an earlier career, I did a stint as a radio “traffic bimbo”. I suppose the proper title is traffic reporter, and I apologize to any of you who do this as a vocation, but for me, that’s what it was.
You know: “There’s a three car pileup in the left lane of northbound Highway 2, just south of the city limits—you’ll want to move to the right, or better yet, take another route.” An important person for those of us in our cars, to be sure, but not one that takes a lot of thought or effort, frankly. I’m not sure how people think this works, but I basically sat at a desk, listened to other traffic reports (there was only one helicopter in town at the time), called the cops on occasion…and made stuff up sometimes.
I suppose it’s still critical to listen to these reports in some cities, but in a lot of places it’s just a given that you’re gonna get stuck in the same places around the same time every day. My sister-in-law Lisa can tell you about the “trade parade” of workers heading east every morning once the weather gets nicer, and Judith knows right where the bottlenecks always are. Even I know when and where to get into what lane to avoid the stop-and-go or the stupid left turners who wreck it for everyone else (you know who you are, she yelled…).
But I know where these are now, and so I just tune in to satellite—70’s, 80’s, New Wave, and, on occasion, old school rap or head banger stuff.
Whoops, I digressed. Shocking.
So…I got home in decent time, parked in the apartment garage, checked my mail box (nothing today—no mail=no bills=hooray for me—small victory), and got into the elevator to go to my floor.
This is an elevator that is not too small—could probably hold a half dozen people without being too cramped. It has glass panels so that you can see out once you clear the basement and then the main floor-and a pretty good view as I am on the top of a hill overlooking the city.
It’s broken down twice in the eight months I’ve lived here. Twice that I know about; one time was a quick fix, and other took a few days. I have a few flights to climb and I’m lucky I am capable, I guess, because I managed to make it up and down. It’s also good that I didn’t buy a watermelon. Or a small appliance, or a bag of dirt.
So this time elevator stopped on floor below mine, and, without the doors opening, started back down. And came to rest, I-don’t-know-where as all I could see was cinder blocks, which means I was somewhere between the main floor and the basement.
Pushed a couple of buttons. No action, no movement. Pushed all the buttons. Still nothing.
Hit the call button, which is about 18 inches off the floor, so now I have to learn over to shout into the little speaker and to hear the little voiced man on the other end.
I tell him what’s going on, we try a couple of things with no success. He says he’ll call the repair guy and that I should call back in five minutes. It’s about 5:45 pm.
Which I do. Little-voiced man says he hasn’t heard back and I should call back in 15. And he certainly doesn’t sound terribly concerned—probably has to listen to this stuff all day…but really?
K, so I wait the 15 minutes, and a little thought starts to trickle into my head…How long am I going to be here? Maybe I should have peed when I had the chance.
I take the 15 minutes and call my mom to say hello (a daily ritual); I post my predicament on Facebook; I message my son for sympathy.
And I call back in 15 minutes.
The repairman will be there in 25 minutes. What should I do, I shout into the speaker near the floor, if the fans stop running or it gets too hot or I start to feel faint. I didn’t ask about peeing.
Call 9-1-1, says speaker-box man. Not a lot of sympathy coming out of his tiny mouth.
Well, might as well sit, which is what I did. Got a piece of paper out of my bag, put it down and plopped down on it. Thought a bit about the Office and the time that Dwight established a “pee corner” and decided which one it would be if it came to that.
Had a couple of waves of almost panic which made me realize that I really was ok—I can imagine how tough this would be for someone who struggles with…whatever it is…not exactly claustrophobia—or maybe it is, confined spaces? I can’t get underneath a car on a lift or go into a cave that is small, so maybe there are different scales? I’m not sure.
All I know is almost exactly 25 minutes to the call, the elevator slowly sank down to the basement, and there was a big burly stale-cigarette-smoke-smelling guy waiting when the doors opened. He sent me back up and down a couple of times but things still didn’t work, so on the third try, I hopped out and took the stairs.
And so ended my hour in the elevator last week. I managed to get to my apartment and get to the bathroom, no pee corner necessary. And I wasn’t really hungry either. You see, that cookie I grabbed at the afternoon meeting was in my bag.
And it was good.