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    Stuck in an Elevator

    Boy, Christmastime just seems to get crazier and crazier every year. This year I think I lost a solid three weeks just trying to stay afloat on my personal stuff and fit in all the Christmas shopping, decorating, visiting, etc. At times I'm not just planning my day but my whole week ahead of time, to accomplish everything that needs to be done. God forbid a snowstorm or unforeseen event should strike and disrupt my delicate schedule!

    So naturally I'm at the shopping mall Chrismas Eve, trying to buy last minute presents for my wife. I was in Macy's intending to look at some stemware when suddenly nature calls, or in this case, yells. Christmas hubbub aside, when you gotta go, you gotta go. Outside the store in the mall area, the map said there was a restroom on the Upper Level by J.C. Penney's, but the Buckland Mall has gone through a good deal of renovations over the past year, and when I got to where the men's room was supposed to be all I found was a long hallway with mall offices. I knew there was a restroom on the lower level and the nearest way down was an elevator about a hundred feet behind me.

    Heading back, I could see the glass elevator car rising  toward the second floor. The timing was going to be perfect. The doors open as I shuffled behind the crowd waiting for the upward passengers to disembark, and once the car was empty, ten of us shuffled in, seven adults and three children. I was the last one on. I hit the button for the first floor, the doors slid shut, and the car started to descend. Then it gently slowed to a halt four feet down. None of the buttons worked. I rang the alarm bell but none of the shoppers seemed to care, too busy with their own shopping tasks. There was a phone in the car that called mall security and they said they would send someone out right away. Until then, we were stuck. 

    I'm usually the one to go stir-crazy in situations like this. I've had many recurring nightmares in my life about plunging elevators, and I've seen documentaries on the National Geographic channel about people stuck in elevators in the World Trade Center on 9/11. This was nothing like that. The ten of us were like animals on display in a glass cage at the zoo, with little ventilation and no escape hatch. For some reason, I was surprisingly calm. Maybe it was the two little kids staring up at me like I knew what I was doing.  Maybe it was because the guy next to me was starting to cuss and lose it, or because the woman in the back was complaining because her baby in the stroller was asthmatic, and I knew that if everyone started losing their cool we would all be the worse for it. I think the fact that it was Christmas Eve had something to do with it--at least I would have a funny story to talk about at the dinner table today, on Christmas. Standing befor the doors, I was simply trying to wedge my work badge into the crack to see if I could pop the doors open or, at the very least, get some fresh air into the car.

    To make a long story short, they got us out in about a half an hour. The mall had to call the fire department, and then they had to find the override key. Finally the elevator slowly dropped to the bottom floor and I helped them pull the doors open.  The good news is, I got to the men's room in time. What's more, since that happened, I haven't been back to my bounce-off-the-walls, freakshow holiday mindset. I had a wonderfully peaceful Christmas Eve at home with my wife, wrapped all the presents in plenty of time, watched plenty of exciting football games and How the Grinch Stole Christmas with Jim Carrey afterwards. Today has been serene as well, as I blog between opening the gifts and driving to the in-laws for lunch. I can't necessarily explain it, but somehow getting stuck in that elevator had a positive effect on me. I think maybe it's the "best laid plans of mice and men" thing, that sometimes I get so wrapped up in everything that needs to get done to make it the "perfect" Christmas, I forget that life isn't perfect, and I need something to get me to stop, breathe deeply, and look around at my surroundings. Like a broken elevator.

    There's a song by the group Rush called "Time Stand Still" that I love to play in my truck. The lyrics go like this (forgive me if I butcher them):

    I'm not looking back but I want to look around me now

    To some more of the people and the places that surround me now

    Time stand still

    Summer's going fast, nights growing colder

    Children growing up, old friends growing older

    Freeze this moment a little bit longer

    Make each sensation a little bit stronger

    Experience slips away, experience slips away

    Time stand still

    The holidays are a time to take stock of the ones you love and who love you, and appreciate these moments you have together while you still have them.

    Merry Christmas!


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