Three Days In An Elevator

A New York woman who works for a couple that owns a five-story Manhattan townhouse walked into the elevator for the townhouse on Friday night.  The elevator got stuck, the couple was gone for the weekend, and the woman was trapped in the elevator for three days until she was rescued on Monday.

elevator-stuck.jpg.653x0_q80_crop-smartIt isn’t clear yet what caused the elevator to break down, or why it apparently wasn’t equipped with a call button that would allow the trapped woman to summon help.  She also apparently did not have a cell phone that could could have used for that purpose, either.

Unlike a prior incident of a person being trapped in an elevator for hours, there’s no video footage of the elevator interior that would show how the woman passed the time.  According to a report of the incident in the New York Times, the woman, whose name is Marites Fortaliza, was conscious and calm when she was finally removed from the elevator and taken to the hospital, and a relative of the townhouse owners who accompanied her to the hospital said she was “doing well.”  That probably means that Ms. Fortaliza had at least some water with her in the elevator, because three days without any water would run a serious risk of dehydration.

It probably also means that Ms. Fortaliza isn’t a claustrophobic, for whom three days trapped in a tiny, broken-down townhouse elevator would be one of the worst imaginable fates.  If you’ve ever been with someone with claustrophobic tendencies in an elevator that experiences any kind of unexpected pause, or bump, you have seen their look of abject terror at even the thought of being stuck in such a small space — and that’s in an elevator in a commercial building, which probably is larger than the elevator in a New York townhouse.  In fact, fear of being trapped in a stuck elevator must be pretty common, because a Google search yields lots of articles giving you instructions on what to do if it happens to you.  One thing is certain:  no claustrophobe would emerge from three days trapped in an elevator looking “calm.”

What’s your worst nightmare?  Whatever it is, remember — you should always keep your cell phone charged, and on your person.

Flying Phobias

Once I took a business trip with a colleague that required us to fly to Texas. We sat next to each other on the flight, and when the plane encountered mild turbulence he suddenly locked my forearm in a death grip. His face was white and his eyes were panicky, and I realized he was terrified.

IMG_1132The simple act of flying, an everyday method of transportation in our modern world, manages to incorporate an awful lot of fears and phobias. There are people who are terrified that the plane might crash, but there are subtle distinctions in the true nature of their fears. Some are just afraid of dying in a blazing fireball, but others are scared of the moments of terror they might feel as the plane hurtles toward the ground — and still others are concerned that they haven’t told their loved ones left behind how they truly felt, or how their deaths might affect their families.

The crash-related fears only scratch the surface, of course. For the mysophobes among us, a plane flight must be like their own private hell, where every surface has been touched by unknown, germ-ridden people, the common bathroom is a cauldron of contamination, and even the recycled air you must breathe is carrying viruses, bacteria, and microbes coughed out by fellow passengers. Claustrophobes must hate the thought of being locked into a crowded metal tube of people, particularly when they board one of those dinky regional planes. Xenophobes cringe at being seated next to complete strangers, with their odd smells and sounds and efforts to hold awkward conversations.

Me, I worry about being late for the plane — that I won’t make it to the airport on time, or that the check-in lines or the security lines will be overwhelming and I’ll miss my flight. Others worry about the flight itself; I worry about not making it onto the germ-infested, stranger-filled tube of death.