“Let’s put you on the wheelchair elevator, Mom, so you don’t have to climb all those stairs,” my sister Janet suggested.
The huge, log chapel at the conference center was full Saturday morning so we opted to watch the meeting via large screen TV in the upstairs overflow room. My mom has a little trouble walking and stairs are a particular problem for her.
“Good idea!” I agreed. “I’ll ride up with her to make sure she’s okay.”
We walked over to the tiny glass-encased elevator and discovered that a key was needed to enter its cubicle, so Janet headed off to the office while Mom and I awaited our adventure.
“The key isn’t working,” Janet proclaimed as she stuck it into the keyhole and turned this way and that.
“Keep jiggling it around, “ I said, “I’ll press on the door. Maybe it’s just jammed a little.” There was no door handle so we presumed the door should just open up. It didn’t. Janet jiggled, I gently pressed, and finally it popped open.
“There we go,” Janet said as she ushered Mom in first. I followed and Janet shut the door from the outside. I was very careful to examine the panel of buttons before I pushed, not wanting to goof anything up. There were only four buttons: UP, DOWN, ALARM, and a giant red EMERGENCY STOP button.
“Piece o’ cake.” With one stiff, outstretched index finger I pressed the UP button. Nothing. Again. Nothing.
“Try holding it down,” Janet suggested through the glass. I did. Still nothing.
“Press DOWN,” Mom added. Nothing.
“Hmmm.” I continued this until Janet and I agreed the lift must be broken and we’d be better off to just slowly help Mom up the stairs. As there was no handle on the inside I pushed to open the door and it didn’t budge. Janet stuck the key in and jimmied it around a bit. Her face was getting a little pink. She got on her knees and wiggled the key around some more, looking just a little on the nervous side.
“How long ago did I visit the bathroom.......no, do not even think that way.......,” my little voice began. Glancing at Mom I could tell that she was thinking the same thing. She smiled a reassuring smile.
Janet rose back to her feet and said, “I’m going for help.”
“Oh brother, Mom, we’re stuck in an elevator.” We both laughed. I realized I had my camera so I took a picture of us smiling in our box.
In no time Janet came back with the lady from the office who told us that we were supposed to operate the elevator from the inside with the key which my sister was holding in her hand. Janet climbed up a flight of stairs and leaned over the open top of our little elevator room and dropped the key down to me, careful to miss Mom’s fluffy-haired head.
“Okay, here we go, Mom.” I confidently, yet ever so deliberately slid the key into the keyhole, turned it, and pressed UP. Nope. DOWN? Nope. UP again. Didn’t budge.
But the alarm began to blare, louder outside the elevator than inside. Office Lady stuck her fingers in her ears, as did about a dozen people in the lobby, and hollered, “I don’t know how to run this.”
“You’re a big help, “ said Little Voice.
I looked at Janet, then at Mom. Both were looking brave though perplexed.
“I’ll go call someone!” hollered Fingers-In-Ears Woman.
About this time Mom pressed the ALARM button several times to see if maybe the noise would cease. Didn’t hurt to try, but it didn’t work. She shrugged.
Janet’s daughter, Sarah, came down looking for us. “What’s going on?”
“Grandma and Aunt Cherie are stuck in the elevator.”
A crowd of onlookers, with their fingers in their ears, began to gather and stare in at us, curiously examining us with craning necks and bulging eyes. I felt like one of those red-bottomed baboons. I had the urge to back up to the glass door and press my Levi's against it in a sort of baboon-moon.
“So this is the view from the other side of the cages at the Portland Zoo,” I mused. I’ll never look at the animals the same again. There was no place to hide.
Help arrived in the form of a few men, one with a large set of keys. This looked hopeful.
“Stick your key in and press UP,” he hollered, eyes squinting from the noise of the still blaring alarm. If I could have, I would have slapped him silly. But I did what he said, gave him a wry look......and smiled when nothing happened.
He scratched his head. I began wondering if I could climb out. Several seconds passed before he stuck the key into the control panel on his side of the cage and turned the alarm off.
I looked at Mom. “Why didn’t he do that right away?” She just shook her head, still smiling, enjoying her adventure while casually leaning on her cane which I’d named Citizen.
“I’m about ready to take Citizen and crash him through the glass to get us out,” I laughed.
The man paused, then said, “Press the red STOP button.”
“Okay,” I said, and once again, very carefully, stiff finger extended, standing back so he could see all my movements, I pressed, but the button didn’t budge. “It’s already pressed in. We didn’t do it, though,” I hastily added not wanting anyone to go away thinking Mom and I were dolts, because IT WASN’T OUR FAULT.
“Ohhh,” he said knowingly. “Pull it out, then push it in again.”
I did. The elevator lurched downward an inch or so.
“Now push UP, and hold it until you get to the top. The door up there should open right up when you push on it. The elevator was just jammed.”
Mother and I bid Janet and Sarah adieu. While pushing and holding the black UP button we began to rise above our family members as well as the gathering crowd, like Jesus ascending into heaven, well, sort of. Cheers! “Hooray!”
Thankfully, the door on the second level opened right up. We skedaddled out, we three, Mom, Citizen, and I, glad to be free once again.
It seemed that the words ‘lift’ and ‘rise up’ were used more often than usual during that morning's song time, which set us to giggling. Good thing it was only our group upstairs in the overflow room. We were a rowdy bunch of baboons!