Thursday, April 17, 2008

I'll Take the Stairs, Thanks

If you ever ride in elevators (meaning: if you are a current resident of the planet Earth), you might think twice before reading Nick Paumgarten's article about them in The New Yorker. Threaded throughout the article in pieces is the story of Nicholas White. In 1999, at 34 years old, he was working for Business Week. At 11 p.m. on a Friday, he took a smoke break. On his way back up to the 43rd floor, the elevator stuck. He was alone in it for 41 hours.
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. . . . 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.
I know: Sweet lord.

The New Yorker's web site features the security video (sped up considerably, of course) of White's entire ordeal. Not the most pleasant thing to watch, and the clip has been set to creepy music, as if the unadorned situation isn't creepy enough:
The most striking thing to (White) about the tape is that it includes split-screen footage from three other elevators, on which you can see men intermittently performing maintenance work. Apparently, they never wondered about the one he was in. (Eight McGraw-Hill security guards came and went while he was stranded there; nobody seems to have noticed him on the monitor.)
(Via QuizLaw)


Blogger lmha said...

My boys love elevators (although Jack seems to think they're akin to a roller coaster ride the way he grips our hands on occasion. But this story, and any thought of being stuck in an elevator for that amount of time, makes me need therapy now. I can't imagine being stuck with no watch, no phone, no way of contacting people. I think I'm mildly claustropobic. I'd be absolutely terrified!

2:50 PM  

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