Monday, May 05, 2008

Welcome to my worst nightmare:

After over a week of attempting to read it, I finally finished the New Yorker article about Nicholas White, a man who was trapped in an elevator for over 40 hours.

FORTY HOURS. In a box.

"The longest smoke break of Nicholas White’s life began at around eleven o’clock on a Friday night in October, 1999. White, a thirty-four-year-old production manager at Business Week, working late on a special supplement, had just watched the Braves beat the Mets on a television in the office pantry. Now he wanted a cigarette. He told a colleague he’d be right back and, leaving behind his jacket, headed downstairs.

The magazine’s offices were on the forty-third floor of the McGraw-Hill Building, an unadorned tower added to Rockefeller Center in 1972. When White finished his cigarette, he returned to the lobby and, waved along by a janitor buffing the terrazzo floors, got into Car No. 30 and pressed the button marked 43. The car accelerated. It was an express elevator, with no stops below the thirty-ninth floor, and the building was deserted. But after a moment White felt a jolt. The lights went out and immediately flashed on again. And then the elevator stopped.

The control panel made a beep, and White waited a moment, expecting a voice to offer information or instructions. None came. He pressed the intercom button, but there was no response. He hit it again, and then began pacing around the elevator. After a time, he pressed the emergency button, setting off an alarm bell, mounted on the roof of the elevator car, but he could tell that its range was limited. Still, he rang it a few more times and eventually pulled the button out, so that the alarm was continuous. Some time passed, although he was not sure how much, because he had no watch or cell phone. He occupied himself with thoughts of remaining calm and decided that he’d better not do anything drastic, because, whatever the malfunction, he thought it unwise to jostle the car, and because he wanted to be (as he thought, chuckling to himself) a model trapped employee. He hoped, once someone came to get him, to appear calm and collected. He did not want to be scolded for endangering himself or harming company property. Nor did he want to be caught smoking, should the doors suddenly open, so he didn’t touch his cigarettes. He still had three, plus two Rolaids, which he worried might dehydrate him, so he left them alone. As the emergency bell rang and rang, he began to fear that it might somehow—electricity? friction? heat?—start a fire. Recently, there had been a small fire in the building, rendering the elevators unusable. The Business Week staff had walked down forty-three stories. He also began hearing unlikely oscillations in the ringing: aural hallucinations. Before long, he began to contemplate death."

The article goes back and forth between White's story and the history, statistics and facts about Elevators. Elevators are very safe. They have not changed all that much in the last one hundred years. There is an elevator testing facility in Bristol, Connecticut. Etc. The article succeeded in making me feel better about elevators while simultaneously making me never want to get into one again.

When I was about eleven years old a couple of us were horsing around in an elevator when it suddenly stopped. We were stuck for maybe five minutes, but I freaked out. Completely. I would not get in an elevator for at least a couple of months. Unfortunately a good friend of mine lived on the seventh floor of an apartment building near my house. Every day after school I would hike the seven flights up and down to jeers from my friends who thought I was being a wimp. Which I was. Which I have accepted and am a-okay with. If she lived on the fourteenth floor I would have hoofed it as well.

Five minutes turned me off of elevators for a little while. But forty hours? I would never get in to an elevator again!

Read the rest of the article here:

And please enjoy the time lapse video of White's stay in the elevator:

Happy Elevatoring! ♦DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves