On Monday morning, I stood in a hotel elevator with five strangers, hands gripping the railing. At any moment, we might have freefell.
Down at least twelve floors. Down only twelve floors. And secretly, I prayed that we might be stuck in that encased glass room for more than the five or ten minutes it took to get us out.
I am not claustrophobic. I’ve squeezed myself into tight quarters during games of hide-and-seek. Held my breath under a bar countertop and inside linen closets. I’ve suppressed bouts of giggles rather than panic attacks. But I do not like getting stuck in elevators.
This time, though, I thought it might be a learning experience.
When you’re surrounded on all sides by five strangers who are trying their best to grin and bear it, despite the overwhelming urge to panic, you try to see it as a teachable moment. I thought, for some ridiculous reason, we might be friends.
Walk out of the other side with a newfound appreciation for our lives.
You always hear about the people who spent a day or a week or a month trapped somewhere and emerge on the other side of the experience with a glow about them. They walk a little lighter, smile a little bigger and laugh a little louder. It changes their whole life.
I stood in that elevator and waited for my very own life-changing experience. Squeezed the railing until my hands turned white. And all the while, I felt calm.
When we jolted downward for a split second, my knees gave out. But in my head, all I could keep thinking was this:
I’m in Elevator K. Is that significant? What if we’re stuck here for an hour? Oh well, I’ve got two hours to kill.
Oh, well? Oh well.
I think it was a lesson in patience and handling chaos. I don’t walk; I pace. I don’t talk; I ramble.
Don’t all of us? Don’t we start pushing buttons and raising our voices and banging on the hard glass? We whip out our Blackberry or iPhone and start sending e-mails.
“Might be late for that meeting, Bill. I’m stuck in an elevator.”
“Can’t get a Starbucks coffee with you, Emily. I’m wedged somewhere between the 11th and 12th floor of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.”
There’s still service in a broken elevator. Even if you’re freefalling, at least you can update your Facebook status.
Maybe there shouldn’t be. Maybe we should all be sitting around chatting about existentialism or the apocalypse or What This Really Means for Us. Maybe God’s angry that we’ve turned Sunday into just another workday.
Slow down. Grab the railing. And breathe.
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