Holy fucking Jesus Christ I was stuck in an elevator today.
I wouldn't call myself claustrophobic, but like (I imagine) many people, I still don't like small, confined spaces. Especially elevators. For no matter how richly decorated the walls are or how soothing the smooth-jazz music is, it's still essentially a box being suspended by a couple of ropes that, depending on where you are in the building, could be perilously dangling a couple hundred feet above ground. One of my biggest fears has been getting caught in an elevator, and really slow elevators (like those in the Alumni and Thirteenth Street dorms) always make me nervous.
Well today it finally happened. I got in and pushed my floor number, but the electronic display just flashed a few times and then remained on "L." The elevator didn't move. I tried pushing "Door Open" to no avail. I frantically pushed every floor's button, but nothing worked. I even rang the alarm. Still no movement.
Finally, after calling the campus emergency hotline, the building manager caught wind of my imperilment. He started shouting directions at me--since he sounded so far away, I presumed that I had somehow dipped below the ground floor--but I couldn't really hear what he was saying. He kept asking me if I needed medical assistance, and I know his intentions were good but hearing those words--"medical assistance"--weren't doing much to make me feel better.
I felt like I couldn't breathe; I was sure my lungs were running out of fresh oxygen. I felt sick and started imagining the scene hours from now, when I'd be huddled in a pool of my own sweat and vomit, firefighters descending on ladders to rescue me. There was an All in the Family episode in which Archie gets stuck in an elevator with a pregnant woman who's going into labor. I tried consoling myself with the thought that at least I didn't have a fetus inside me, but that didn't stop the pacing or cries of "I can't hear you!" or silent prayers to God apologizing for all the bad things I've done and just please please let me make it out of here alive. I told myself that despite living on the eleventh floor I was going to take the stairs for the rest of the day; we'll see how that goes.
All told, I'd say I was stuck for about ten minutes before the elevator decided on its own that it had better let me off on my floor. They were easily the longest, scariest ten minutes of my life. Seriously, I was still shaking when I got to my room. It wasn't that I was scared of dying; I knew that the elevator wouldn't fall or explode or otherwise send me to my doom. Just the opposite, in fact: long hours spent waiting to be released from this immobile prison, the air poisoned with my panicked carbon monoxide, and the really lame obituary that mourned the loss of an unemployed, underachieving college student who died of fright and loneliness in his dorm building's elevator.