Random Wednesday: The Worst Place I Have Ever Been Stuck In

I’m breaking the rules.

At this point I have yet to post a picture of myself but I feel it’s necessary for this story.

This is me, seven years ago, stuck in a elevator.

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The picture quality is potato but the phone being used to take this picture had fallen down the freight elevator shaft in the same building a few months before my unplanned residency in the front office elevator.

That’s a story in itself. If you’ve never ridden in a freight elevator, it’s exactly what you see in the movies. Several doors opening and closing top to bottom and a pulley system to move the elevator, stop the elevator, and people power to open the doors again. Lots of ropes for this, that, and the other thing. It was fun to operate but took some practice. One day I was taking the freight elevator when the door caught my phone and popped it off my belt. I would have had it in my pocket but, girl pants. No pockets of functionality to speak of. Myself and our maintenance guy were able to locate the phone in the basement at the bottom of the shaft where there was no entrance. We McGuyvered a tool using a broom handle, duct tape, wire, and an additional broom handle to flip the phone over, open the belt clip with one broom handle, use the wire loop we attached to other broom handle, and hooked into the belt clip. The retrieval was a successful and the phone was a little beat up but still in enough of a working condition to be useful later in the other elevator incident.

The building I worked in was downtown. It was a type of building that you admire as you drive by and wonder what living/working in one of those buildings would be like. Well, I’ll admit, it was pretty cool but it came with several drawbacks. The building was five stories including a basement. In the basement was our more, out of sight, items but for good reason. We had pallets full of tooling which was related to my job as the assistant print shop manager. Tools, or dies, are used for foil stamping, embossing, and diecutting. The presses performing these functions were the presses I was hired to install, run, and later manage as we hired other operators. There were hundreds of dies both delicate and heavy. Often made out of solid brass and copper scattered everywhere. It was a mess kept hidden and I was hired to fix it. Next to our tools and behind plastic sheets was the tallest, burliest, would not want to run into a dark alley kind of guy who ran our glitter press. You read that correctly. Glitter press. He didn’t mind at all but he was more brawn than brains. A fact he was not shy to volunteer. You ever wonder how glitter gets on Christmas cards? I’m sure you’re not picturing a biker with a small printing press and a bucket of glitter but, that’s really how it happens.

The first floor was my floor. Production had several presses and finishing equipment. And yes, the glitter still made it to the first floor no matter how hard we tried to keep it out. The second floor was the business floor. This was where partitions were put up to create offices and cubicles had full walls to keep phone conversations from being interrupted. On the third floor were the designers. They lived in a very large open space with half walled cubicles so they could pass ideas and projects back and forth. Projects that sometimes didn’t sell well and ended up in the store on the the fourth floor. The store was opened as a “warehouse sale” twice a year. I was fortunate to score a card and notepad set from one of the sales that I still cherish. Printed on the set was a woman standing in front of a cactus reminiscent of a old vacation photo. The caption said, “If I wanted to be around a bunch of pricks I would visit my family.” I made sure to send the card to my dad, he is the only one who would’ve appreciated it. The fifth floor was a former roller rink with high polished wood floors and faded 70’s era art on the wall. This floor was used for storage on occasion and once in a while I would have to dig out parts or tools from the fifth floor. The view of the city was amazing from there and looking back on it, I didn’t visit the fifth floor nearly enough.

Every floor had it’s purpose and, other than the forth and fifth floor, I was running all over the building every day to talk to designers, verify orders with the office team, or in the basement digging out dies and trying to avoid glitter. Most manufacturing plants are linear which is ideal for workflow but this building didn’t have a lot of space per floor requiring the workflow to be vertical. Stairs were both your friend and your enemy. Sometimes, it was the perfect break away from work. The, “No, it’s okay, I’ll take the stairs.” line. If anything, taking the stairs gave you a moment to breath. But again, this was an old building so the stair well was old too. The paint was cracking and the floor doors often would stick or lock unexpectedly. The doors were also out of the way. This meant knocking might not grab the attention of someone sitting near by, sitting on the other side of a wall or two, and you wouldn’t be let in. It’s a weird thing to say, the stairs were the most unreliable mode of transportation in the building because there were few doors that worked. You might not end up on the floor you were trying to but, no one got stuck on the stairs.

This probably makes the building sound like a disaster waiting to happen if there was a fire… We only had a couple and they were put under control quickly. I’ll explain thermographic printing in a different post. Therm = heat combined with printing paper and resins. Fires happen. It was fine though, we had tongs and a water bucket.

If you’re keeping count here, freight elevator – eats phones and takes physical strength to run. Stairs – the Russian Roulette of travel. That leaves the business or front elevator…

On this particular day I was working back and forth between the basement and the first floor. I had a new employee running the foil stamping press while I was taking inventory of dies for upcoming jobs to assist. By mid afternoon a question came up on a design. Instead of calling up to the third floor I decided I would take the front elevator to make a visit and explain in person the issue we ran into on press. This elevator is the first thing you see when you walk into the building and intended to be used by customers. However, in today’s business world, majority of the customers communicate via email or phone. It was used several times a day more often by employees than customers.

As I was on my way to the third floor the elevator just stopped. No bells, whistles, warnings, or screeches. Just stopped. I did what any logical person does. I randomly started hitting buttons. The doors didn’t open, or close. I mean, the doors were already closed but when I say “started hitting buttons” I mean all of them, just for good measure. Nothing even lit up for the floor numbers. I was simply standing in a non-moving elevator. From here I did what any one with my personality would do.I started laughing hysterically.

I was in disbelief. I was actually stuck in the elevator. The ONE good thing in the building and it crapped out. Luckily I had my phone with me which, after the freight elevator incident I had stopped carrying it with me on quick errands. I called reception located in the office area of the second floor and explained my situation and again, began laughing. The words coming out of my mouth sounded so silly.

“I’m stuck in the elevator.”

The receptionist started laughing as she realized she could hear my laugh, not on the phone, but coming through the wall nearest her desk. Not wanting to use up the battery on my phone and not knowing how long I was going to be stuck, most of the communication from that point forward was yelling through the wall. I was told they called a repair company and they were on their way. I just had to sit and wait.

Of course I took a picture of myself while waiting. There isn’t a whole lot to do when you’re stuck in an elevator.

I don’t recall exactly how long I was stuck. I want to say it was around an hour and a half but it went by quick to be honest. Every once in a while I would get someone asking, “How’s it going?” to which I would reply, “I’m fine. Not really going anywhere, but fine.” This always put my coworkers into giggle fits. Shortly after the repairmen were able to get elevator working again, I was freed on the third floor where everyone had shaken off the excitement and was back to work.

Now, I figured I would not live this incident down. I’d would become another story in the long list of over used titles, The Girl with the Pearl Earring, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl on the Train, The Girl on the Elevator…

But no. As it would happen, a few days later after my incident the president/owner got stuck in the elevator. I was not there the day it happened and had to get the follow up the next day.

“How long was he in there for?”
“Not nearly as long as you were. Maybe 40 minutes.”
“Oh, well that’s not so bad.”
“No. But…”
“But what?”
“Let’s just say, he didn’t take it as well as you did. It would be best not to mention the elevator in future conversations.”

____________

And here are the ladies with all the other places you don’t want to go…

Bronwyn Green
Gwendolyn Cease
Kellie St. James
Deelylah Mullin
Paige Prince

 

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