The Office Elevator
“Hey Megan, wait up. Wasn’t that a long, useless meeting? Scott and I are heading out for lunch, do you want to join us?” Megan nodded and said, “Sure. Where to? Will we make it back in an hour for the next meeting?”
Just then, a muted ding sounded and the downward red arrow on the wall lite up. The three co-workers stepped into the elevator. As the door was closing, they could hear a loud thunderous sound. “Sounds like a herd of elephants running. Management must have brought in something good for the employee lunch today. Everyone is heading to the lunch room at once. No matter. I really need to get out of here after that absurd meeting. It was so …” Mark’s voice trailed off as he began to notice that his vision had become blurred and unsteady.
It was as if the lights in the elevator were creating a special effect for a movie. As he tried to focus on the lights, he saw bright fuzziness. He blinked hard but his vision didn’t clear up. Then his eyes moved to the elevator’s walls, the grain in the fake wood panels randomly moved back and forth. The realization hit him and he blurted out, “Fuck. It’s an earthquake.” Unconsciously, he pressed his back firmly against the side of the elevator and he looked at his companions.
Megan was firmly gripping the handrail, back pressed against it. Her eyes looking up fearfully. Mark could see her mouth moving, her lips forming words, yet no sound was uttered. She was praying. On the other hand, Scott stared intently, as if he could see Scott’s brain working, calculating, drawing upon the depth of information in his big brain to form a logical conclusion.
“Shit Mark, you’re right,” said Scott. “It’s an earthquake.” Scott paused a moment as the swaying continued and finished, “It can’t be that bad. The building is still standing. If it had been the big one, this old building would have collapsed and we’d all be dead by now.” Mark glared at him.
The movement stopped and all at once, they became aware the elevator had stopped but the door didn’t open.
Megan, on the verge of tears, slunk down to sit on the floor. Almost simultaneously, the three reached for their smart phones. Scott asked, “Anyone got service? I’ve got no bars.” The other shook their heads.
Scott went on, calming himself by talking out loud. “The shaking is over with. We just need to wait for the aftershocks to come and go. There’s no need to panic, everything will be fine. Elevators have brakes, it just stopped because the controls sensed the quake. They must have used stronger cables for the possibility of quakes in this area. Once the system detects that it’s all over, the elevator will start up again and the door will open. Even if the cables do snap, we should be near the bottom. We’ll be okay, no worse fall then the Tower of Terror at Disneyland. And if all else fails, there must be a hatch door in the ceiling and a ladder in the shaft to climb out.”
During Scott’s monologue, a low whimpering began from the floor as Megan began crying softly.
Tense, Mark launched at Scott abruptly, “Are you serious? What do you know? When did you become an expect in building design or structural engineering? You’re just a know-it-all junior programmer. For Christ’s sake, you write code for smart phone apps.”
Stunned, Scott retorted back, “That might be, but I graduated top of my class. It’s tech. It’s the way I would have designed the system.”
“Oh yeah. You learned all this from what … Hollywood disaster movies! Give me a break. You know nothing … So why don’t you just shut up, stupid”, Mark responded flippantly.
Scott reared up, “You know what’s wrong with you? Your say whatever comes into your mind. You don’t hold back. For once, why don’t you try thinking first.” With that outburst, Scott folded his arms over one another and stopped talking with a huff. He dropped down on the floor with Megan, his face showing both worry and annoyance.
Mark standing above them, turned towards Megan and angrily said, “Can you stop it? Your crying isn’t helping anything. It’s aggravating. It’s pissing me off”.
Megan quivered, she started to speak, but her words came out halted and broken, “I … I can’t help it… I don’t want …. to die. I know we’re in the hands of God … if it’s … if it’s his will then … “
“Then what?”, interrupted Mark sharply, “It’s our destiny … our fate … God’s got nothing to do with it. It’s an earthquake … get yourself together.”
Mark reached for red emergency button on the side panel and pushed hard, once, twice, three times. There was no response, nothing. He muttered, “What a piece of crap, it doesn’t even work.”
A few moments later, he looked down at Scott and Megan and commanded, “Hey, we should start yelling. Let them know we’re stuck in here.” He cupped his hands to his mouth and started yelling, “Help! Help! We’re in the elevator. We can’t get out.” From the floor, Megan and Scott joined in. Their words completely unsynchronized and uncoordinated. Any outside listeners would have heard a cacophony of indistinguishable words. When their voices became cracked and hoarse from overuse, Mark began banging on the doors. After a long effort to get noticed, there was only silence.
Megan’s crying got more pronounced. Intimidatingly, Mark’s stared at her with squinted eyes, his eyebrows arched in disapproval, “Can you stop it? You disgust me.” Scott piped in, “Can you leave her alone?” Without saying a word, Mark turned and gave Scott the same menacing look – a warning to be quiet and keep his opinions to himself.
Mark began to pace back and forth across the short elevator floor like a caged tiger. With each pass, his footsteps became heavier and his gesticulations sharper, broader, bolder. His anger and frustration swelled. He turned and glared at the buttons on the elevator control panel from across the small space. As he approached it, Mark clenched his hand into a fist. The closer he came, the tighter his fist and the whiter his knuckles. His shoulders tensed, then his arm pulled back, and his fist launched forward and connected with the door-open button with a hard thud.
For a few seconds, the elevator panel reverberated from the impact, and then they heard a double metallic click and an elongated “shwoomp”. The elevator doors opened. They were frozen in disbelief. Stunned. The elevator had been at their destination the entire time. “Whoa”, exclaimed Mark, “The doors just didn’t open in the earthquake. We were on the ground floor the whole time. We were never in any danger.”
Scott stood up slowly. Megan wiped the tears from her eyes, grabbed the handrail, and hauled herself up trembling.
Looking at the wall clock across from the elevator doors, Mark said, “Quick lunch anyone? We still have 15 minutes before our next meeting?” Scott glanced at Mark with incredibility, he rolled his eyes, turned and walked off down a hallway without saying a word. Silently, Megan hobbled across the lobby with her head down. She exited through the exterior doors and plopped down on the curb, putting her head to her knees, and whispered, “Thank you, Thank you. Thank you”. Mark glanced down the empty hall that had taken Scott away and then looked at Megan collapsed on the sidewalk. He flittered his head with “What’s their problem?”