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What are the Odds?
by Marian Brooks

There are 120 billion elevator rides in this country per year. I took two of them just yesterday. If you travel in one of the 600,000 elevators in the US on a daily basis, you can count on being trapped in one during your lifetime. It’s more likely to happen than being hit by lightening or consumed by a shark. Frankly, I’d prefer it.

My grand children and I had just returned from the movie, Wrecker Ralph. Anna, aged seven, was “starving” and Ethan, eleven, had to go to the bathroom “urgently.” 

At 4:15 PM Ethan, Anna and I boarded Elevator No. 2 for the tenth floor. The children jumped and rocked a little, as children do. The elevator stopped with a tilt and a shudder and refused to move past the fifth floor. Both children looked at me to see if they should be frightened. I covered my own anxiety with a brave face and pressed the Help Button. No one answered for five minutes. Finally there was a voice from the guard saying once he figured out what to do, he’d get us out. He couldn’t find the key or the reset button for the elevator. My confidence was ebbing. After several attempts, I was able to get my husband on his cell phone and instructed him to “do something.” He said, "I'll see you when you get out." The next message came from the guard who informed us that he was trying to contact the elevator company. They didn’t call back. The children had heard stories about running out of air in small places. I told them we had plenty of air but not to talk or laugh too much. By this time more than a half hour had elapsed. I was still pretty sure that we would be rescued but I was getting angry. It was then that my sense of humor took a dark turn. I suggested that we pretend to be dead so that when help finally arrived, they’d be sorry they took so long. Anna closed her doll’s eyes and we practiced different poses with our tongues hanging out. We laughed ourselves silly which didn’t solve Ethan’s bladder problem or soothe Anna’s growling intestines but it did cut the tension.

The guard announced that someone had called the Fire Department. Within ten minutes, six guys arrived in full regalia, pried open the doors and lifted us out.  Everyone in the lobby applauded. There were flashing lights on the fire truck, and an ambulance at the ready. The guard gave the children Peppermint Patties. We considered avoiding Elevators No.1 and No. 3 by walking up ten flights of steps. But then, I calculated the odds. The risk of cardiac arrest for a 71 year old grandmother was far greater than the risk of getting stuck in an elevator twice in the same day.