Going Up

Published 2:39 pm Wednesday, June 15, 2011

he doors close, you feel the hair on your neck rise as the tension mounts, flashes of fiery crashes, dark cramped wholes where the air is limited, demonic killers standing behind you ready to pounce and then you hear, “Ding.” The elevator doors open and you made it safely to your destination floor.

You are afraid of elevators and you should be, but not from “Stranger Danger” or slipping cables, it’s the fear of awkward silence.

Life has some discomfited social moments, such as a first date, waiting in line for the next bathroom stall, running into an “Ex” with the “latest love interest” but one of the most uncomfortable is the elevator ride.

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You are crammed in a small box, sliding up the side of a building, facing doors and waiting while strangers participate in like manner. You are inches away, yet you try not to make eye contact. Awkward.

To add to this uneasiness are extra extenuating circumstances. What if the elevator is full? What if the people in the elevator appear super-sized and you fear the weight limit has been breached? Are you worried about insulting them if you choose to not step on?  

What if the passengers look like thugs? Do you really want to be enclosed in the box with ax murderers, child molester’s or politically incorrect individuals?

What if you are a conservative and you get in an elevator full of liberals? Or you are a liberal and you get into an elevator full of Sarah Palin followers?

What if you are afraid of the elevator before the door even opens? You can’t even define the fear since they that name the fears have a silly name for all the other fears but not this one. Instead they lump it into the category of claustrophobia. Don’t think it’s so much the fear of the small confined space but rather the heightened dramatic sense of crashing to ground.

I blame Hollywood.

They are always portraying elevators as tools of disaster. Cinematic elevator death adds to those who are uneasy about riding elevators.

My poor mom will walk up several flights of stairs, not because she is choosing a healthy lifestyle but because she is afraid of the elevator.

So, does she have a good reason to be afraid?

Just like riding in an airplane, for which my mother takes a special ‘happy’ pill (prescribed by a doctor) to overcome her fear of flying, elevator mode of transportation is highly safe and rarely ends in death.

Is it me, or is fear of flying the proper diagnosis? I am perfectly fine about the flying. It is the falling that scares me!

Such as it is with elevators.

We take riding elevators for granted. Between elevators and escalators, these devices moved over 210 billion people in a year. They have multiple computer processors monitoring the operations and they have built in redundancies and monthly inspections. Most fatalities occur when passengers try to rescue themselves.

If you are stuck in an elevator, just sit down, relax and wait. Push emergency buttons or make phone calls and wait for the rescuers.

If it begins falling and you watch Looney Tunes you can try the ol’ Bugs Bunny trick and just jump up when the elevator hits the ground.

Try to forget the horror stories— such as when the ‘Towers’ were hit on 9/11.

The World Trade Center contained one of the greatest elevator systems in the world, 198 of the fastest and largest elevators of technological wonder until that tragic day when over two hundred died in the elevators making it the worst elevator disaster of all time. Victims plunged to their deaths due to the cables being destroyed, others burned to death as flames used the shafts for funneling through like a chimney, while those that did survive were trapped and perished when the buildings collapsed.

However, thousands were evacuated via the elevator on that day which saved many lives.

It is hard not to think about the worse case scenario sometimes.

As you get on the elevator, it is for the most part a silent ride; unless, you find yourself on an elevator with chatters. That’s me!

We stop and chat anywhere and anytime but an elevator has our audience captured for a brief moment. We must comment, crack a joke, or fill the air with some sort of noise. Yes, I am allergic to silence.

When I am nervous, uncomfortable, or even scared, the way to soothe my mood is by speaking out loud whether it makes sense or not; that is not the point. I am not trying to make new friends, just get through an awkward moment.

Just once I would like to discover I am stuck in an elevator with Hugh Jackman or Ryan Reynolds. That is when I am hoping for the stuck in an elevator event that we all fear.

Either to soothe, entertain, or irritate some elevators play music. But not good music. As if there is some unwritten law, the Elevator god’s demand we suffer through our ride with watered down versions of songs we are familiar with but manifested by some sick and perverted musicians from another universe. Eerie … and irritating.

But what about “Stranger Danger” in an elevator? Criminal activity is growing on our elevators.

You see, you have to choose carefully those you ride with because the possibility of you spending many hours stuck in there is something you must consider.

 As crime prevention, if a suspicious person enters the elevator, step off the car before the door closes. Always stand next to the control panel, near the alarm button. Keep your back to the wall and face anyone in the elevator, never turn your back.

In case of an attack, activate the alarm, push the next floor button and yell loudly.

Or, if I am the attacker, as potentially would be the case if Hugh Jackman were trapped with me on a elevator ride, push the stop button and work your charm.

We can’t pick our family but we can wait for the next elevator if the one before us isn’t appealing or if we feel anxiety about the danger.

However, there are some fun things you can do according to an online site that has more than a few suggestions.

Or, you can just do like me and chat about nothing, make a fellow human being smile, and interact with those who are fortunate to come into your presence that day.

It is better to go up than to go down.

Tracy Williams is a syndicated columnist and can be reached via Face Book at My Hometown Column. Become a fan.