Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sliding Doors

Today I was standing on the platform at Rosslyn metro station (long story ... I accidentally took the orange line clear to George Mason before I realized that I was not, in fact, on the blue line as I thought, and had to backtrack through Rosslyn ... yeah, welcome to my world ... )

Anyway, a woman's voice came over the loudspeaker with a public service announcement about the doors on metro cars. They are not like elevator doors, she said. They will close on your person or your belongings, so be careful.

Not like elevator doors?! I happen to know otherwise.

This story goes back to New Year's Eve, 2003. Driving home around 1 a.m., I called up Molly to see where she was. Turned out she'd had a bad night and was a little down, so I decided to swing by her apartment building.

The lobby was still hopping, and a couple had just exited the elevator as I walked up. Seeing the doors closing, I reached out my hand to hold them open -- but instead of bouncing back, they closed right on my fingers, just below the knuckles. I tried to yank my hand free, but it was stuck. I called out for help, and the couple came running back and tried to pry the doors open. That is, the guy tried -- his girlfriend was a little, er, drunk, and freaking out about how horrible it would be if I lost my hand (just what I wanted to hear right then). Then she began petting my hair, saying things like, "Oh sweetie, don't worry, we'll get you out of here, you're going to be just fine, just hang in there ... "

The doors didn't budge. A few more people had stopped to see what was happening, and one of them suggested pushing the call button so the elevator would come down and open, and I could get my hand out. Someone pushed it, and everyone waited expectantly. But a different elevator opened, so they sent that one up to the 14th floor and pressed the button again. After all three of the other elevators were on their way to the top of the building, the one holding my hand hostage finally started making its way down to the first floor. (A little note about elevator doors: Apparently, there is an inner set of doors that travels up and down with the elevator, and an outer set of doors on each floor. My hand was caught in the outer set of doors only, which is why my arm didn't get torn off as the elevator went up. I just add that little tidbit because it's a question I get a lot when I tell this story.)

The elevator finally stopped on our level, and the doors ... did not open. In fact, they closed more tightly, making a grinding sound and banging repeatedly on my poor little fingers. I screamed in pain, and the drunk girl started yelling at me to "Shut up! Just shut up! We're going to get you out, OK? Just shut up!"

By this time, a small crowd had gathered in a semi-circle around the elevator. Someone had gone to alert the front desk of the situation, and came back to report that a maintenance worker was on his way. Another helpful person, someone who had clearly just arrived, said, "Hey, I have an idea. We should push the call button, and the elevator will come down and open up." The entire group turned to him, and in near-unison said, "We tried that already!" It was at this point that I had the vague sensation of being in a Seinfeld episode.

The drunk girl was stroking my hair again, and I was imagining my life without a left hand (how would I type? Would I ever play the piano again?) when the elevator maintenance worker shuffled up. He looked in his mid-twenties, with dark blue coveralls and shaggy blond hair hanging in his face. He didn't make eye contact with anyone, just inspected the doors, muttered something about needing a bigger tool and shuffled off again.

In the meantime, the elevator tried once again to open, smashing and re-smashing my hand, and I moaned something about the pressure and the pain. The drunk girl shushed me again, and a woman standing nearby stepped up and wedged a caribbeaner from her key chain into the crack below my fingers, relieving the pressure a little. "Hey honey, don't you have one of those, too?" another woman said, and someone wedged a second caribbeaner above my hand. I moved around and realized I could get all of my knuckles free except the largest one. The two caribbeaner-owners counted to three, put all their weight into leveraging the doors apart, and created a big enough gap that I pulled my hand free!

The crowd cheered as I displayed my swollen fingers, a deep shade of purple and indented to the bone (miraculously, the skin was unbroken). A manager had arrived on the scene and wanted to be sure I could bend all of my fingers (she was probably trying to avoid a lawsuit, but I like to think she was concerned about my well-being, too). It took a minute, but finally I was able to bend each joint, although my hand was a little too swollen to make a fist.

At this point, I just wanted to get out of there and up to Molly's apartment, so I thanked everyone profusely, reassured them that I'd be just fine, and (apprehensively) took an elevator to the tenth floor. It wasn't until I approached Molly's door that the tears started, so that when she opened it she found me standing there, holding up my shaking, battered hand, tears streaming down my face. All I could muster was, "Do you have an ice-pack?"

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. My hand healed superbly, and I'm here today typing away. I was always a little wary of the elevators in Molly's building after that -- the one that jammed on my hand was out of commission for several weeks -- and I tend to get a little jumpy anytime someone puts out a hand to hold an elevator. Or the metro doors. Especially the metro doors. They're not like elevator doors, you know ...


chelsea said...

BRILLIANT idea for a blog! i'll have to throw together some of my stories for ya...

Putz said...

do you know, i think you are as puttzy as me