This happened during one of those last days in January. Living in Covington, Ky., at the beginning of February, I was getting ready to move to another apartment building. Moving into a new apartment called for a new bed. I found one at Ikea that I liked. Having said that, what I don’t like about Ikea is having to put their stuff together. When it comes to being “handy,” I’m not.
I found a college student on Craigslist who makes money putting Ikea products together. I made arrangements with him to meet me at my new building to assemble the bed. It had been delivered there the previous day.
I think his name was Paul. He seemed nice enough and had brought tools with him for the task at hand. I didn’t want to stand there while he was putting the bed together, as I thought it might him nervous. I knew it would me. I asked him what time I should come back. When I looked at my watch, it was 10 a.m. Paul said to give him a couple hours.
At this point, I should mention that the building I’m moving to has an elevator. I took it down to the ground floor. I went over to the apartment I was moving from and did some more packing, killed time at Walgreens and then sat in the lobby of my new building. Starting to feel bored, I looked at my watch. 11:30 a.m. What the hell. I would go back upstairs and see Paul. Maybe he’d be a little early in getting the bed put together.
The lobby area was quiet that morning. I got on the elevator and pressed ‘7.’ That’s the floor I live on. The doors closed. After that, nothing happened.
The elevator wasn’t moving. I looked at the digital sign in it. It kept flashing ‘7,’ then ‘G’ over and over again. I pressed ‘7’ again. Again, the elevator didn’t move.
Stuck. I finally figured out I was stuck.
I had never been stuck in an elevator before. I asked myself if I was feeling panicked. No, not really. Maybe if I pressed ‘7’ again, the elevator would rethink itself and start to move. It didn’t.
I looked at all the buttons on the control panel. Around the bottom was a button labeled police. I pressed it. I could hear the ringing of a phone, then a recorded voice saying, “Please continue to hold.” After that, nothing. Then I heard a voice saying I had reached the Covington impound lot. After that, nothing. I pressed the button again. Same scenario.
I looked for another button to push. There was a red button labeled alarm. I pressed it and heard ringing — you know, just like an alarm, but the alarm button didn’t alarm anybody. I was still stuck.
A feeling of humiliation started to enter my mind. The police weren’t going to come and nobody was around to hear the alarm. I was going to have to yell. I hate yelling.
“Help, help!” I yelled. “I’m stuck in the elevator.” I repeated this three times. Finally a maintenance guy heard me.
“Press the police button,” he yelled back at me.
“I did,” I replied. “It doesn’t work.”
“Are you stuck between floors?”
“How the hell would I know?” I said. I wasn’t feeling panicked but I was starting to feel annoyed.
“I’ll call the police,” the man yelled back. “We’ll get you out.”
I was wearing my winter coat and I was starting to feel hot inside the elevator. I pressed the police button again just for fun. I pressed the ‘7’ button again for the same reason. The digital sign in the elevator continued to flash ‘7,’ then ‘G.’ I thought about sitting down in the elevator. I thought about taking off my winter coat. I did neither.
“Hang on, man,” the maintenance guy yelled at me. “The fire department is on its way!”
My cell phone rang. Hell, I could have called 911 on it, hadn’t thought about doing that. I looked at the number calling me. It was the Ikea guy. He was calling to tell me he was done putting the bed together, but I would find this out later. The phone reception in the elevator was poor and my phone went dead.
“The fire department will be here any minute,” the maintenance guy yelled. “Hang in there!”
“I am!” I yelled back. Really, what choice did I have?
There was dead silence for several seconds or minutes or however the time was passing. Then suddenly, the elevator door opened. There was a Covington fireman standing there looking at me. Looking past him, I could see a large group of people standing around also looking at me. The elevator had never left the ground floor.
“Are you OK?” the fireman asked me.
“Just need a cigarette,” I replied.
I went outside, sat down on a bench, took a cigarette out from my pack and lit it. I looked at my watch. It was 11:45. I had been stuck in the elevator for only fifteen minutes.
My cell phone rang again. I looked at the number. It was the Ikea guy calling again, no doubt, wanting to know where I was. I didn’t answer it. I took my time smoking my cigarette. Afterward, I got on the one elevator that was still working, pressed ‘7’ and hoped for the best.