Print Story Elevators
By toxicfur (Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 01:42:38 PM EST) (all tags)
Turkish Mama and I were about to get in the elevator on our 9th floor in our building. They've been working on the elevators in the building for years, now, I think. At least the past year. They take one of the three elevators off-line, and spend a few months banging around in the shaft, and then it comes back, only not programmed to work in tandem with the other remaining elevator. Each elevator stops on each floor, regardless of whether another car is already there. It's made getting to and from the 9th floor more time-consuming.

"At least they don't get stuck," I remarked, and immediately regretted my offhand comment. I was jinxing us.

Turkish Mama rubbed her very pregnant belly. "Oh, yeah, they better not now! These have gotten stuck, though." She related a couple of stories where the elevators had stopped not completely aligned with the floor. There was waiting involved, and I stood in the confined space of the moving elevator with a pregnant woman and shivered. Getting stuck -- it's the worst thing I can imagine, whether it's in an elevator, on an airplane, on the side of a friggin' mountain. I like to have my own transportation. I like to know that I'm going to be able to move myself around under my own steam. I blame my mother for this: I must be in control.

This fear is not based on a hypothetical, imagined stuck elevator. I've been there. "I was stuck once, too," I told Turkish Mama as we safely approached the ground floor of our building. "With a pregnant woman, even. I thought I was going to lose my mind."

I worked for the Front Street Brewery in Wilmington, North Carolina for a few years between graduate school and moving to Boston. The Brewery was -- and in it's under-new-management form, still is -- in an old building in downtown Wilmington. The elevator was an old-style Otis, with a door you close yourself, and a lever you turn this way and that to line up with the floor. It was all wood and such, and the safety features it had were simple -- the elevator wouldn't move with the inner door open, and it wouldn't move with any of the four outer doors open (one for each of the four floors of the building). The elevator had to be lined up with the floor, more or less, to open the doors, and that was about it. Push forward to go up, center to brake, back to go down. Easy, right?

I was not well-liked by the owners of the Brewery. I was too much of a smart-ass. I was too open about my desires to do more than wait tables for a living. But, I was a hell of a good server. My customers were almost without fail happy when they left. I didn't screw things up often, and I tended to make reasonably good money. I also had bartending experience, and I had worked as a floor manager of a restaurant previously. I got how the floor should run, I knew how to hostess, I knew how to cook. Hell, I was even a pretty fucking great at washing dishes, and I never minded doing any of those jobs. While I knew I didn't and couldn't work in restaurants forever, I wasn't ashamed of the work I did, and I was willing to bust my ass to make sure the customers were happy and the restaurant running smoothly.

As a result, while I was never promoted to bartender (and was assured that I never would be), I was given special events jobs. Our top floor was set up for catering. It had a small bar station, a small kitchen, single-stall bathrooms, and even a small walk-in cooler (I used that cooler as a prop in the one National Novel Writing Month novel I wrote, as an excellent place to stash a body, since it was so rarely used). These catering jobs were actually pretty great, though. I made an extra dollar an hour, and I got the built-in gratuity at the least, plus people typically tipped the bartender. Sometimes. At least a few bucks. It was certainly better than a night with a usual station, even on the weekends.

This particular night was not going all that well, though. These were the people I refer to as redneck yuppies -- new money who still clung to their redneck values. They didn't need to tip because, well, who the fuck knows why. Rednecks don't tip. They were pushy about what they wanted because they had this new money they thought gave them privilege over someone like me -- the "help," even if they'd been the "help" just a generation before. And they got drunker and drunker on the beer that was the closest to Bud Light we made -- the Lumina Lager. Yet another man with a florid complexion and a bright-green Izod polo shirt stretched over his beer gut asked for another beer, and the keg kicked.

"Keg's empty," I told him. "I'll have to go get another -- you guys have already been through the back-up we had!" I smiled reassuringly at him, and left the bar in the hands of the my co-bartender and server. I found Kristen, an assistant manager, and had her help with a few other supplies we needed, and got her to hold the elevator so no one else would use it for such things as transporting racks of silverware or dirty dishes. I grabbed two small kegs of the Lumina and loaded up the elevator. Kristen rode with me to check things out and give me a hand with hooking up the keg -- it was always tricky on this particular bar -- the hoses were old and stiff and never quite wanted to fit properly. I'd been sprayed by this contraption more times than I could count, and I could feel the rising tension in the room as the people were unable to get their beer. Kristen grabbed the controls and we were off to the top floor with the beer. We were so close, almost there, when we heard a tremendous bang and scrape and crunch.

"What the fuck?" I heard a deep, Southern voice say from above me.

We were stuck. We opened the inner door and looked through the six inches or so of gap at the top of the elevator. I could see the shined dress shoes mixed with scuffed boots throughout the room. "Hello?" I said.

"What?" I heard a voice say, and a face appeared in the gap.

"We're stuck. Could you ask the other bartender to get over here?"

"You're stuck?" I could smell his boozy breath.

"Yes, we're stuck," Kristen said, exasperated. She rubbed her belly, and I could imagine her thoughts of having the kid in this elevator. She was only 7 months along, though, and the chances were small that she'd actually go into labor at this very moment.

"Go get the other bartender," I repeated slowly, as if to a small and stupid child.

The face vanished, and I could hear the laughter of the other people as the drunk fucker told everyone but the other bartender what had happened. Finally, I saw Christina's face appear in the crack at our ceiling. "What happened?" I asked. She explained that the jackass had been leaning on the elevator door as we approached, and the top of the elevator had caught the bottom of the door, and wrenched it up, breaking it in the process. Now. because the door was "open," the elevator would not move. We couldn't go down. We couldn't go up.

"I've called John and Will," she said, referring to the owner and the head manager. "John's calling the elevator company to come get you out. In the meantime, just chill!" She smiled reassuringly at us.

"I"m calling the fire department," called out a shrill happy voice. "We have to get them out of there!"

"Yeah," said a deeper voice. "We got to get the beer!"

"Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me, fuck me," I muttered to myself. I tried taking deep breaths. I tried to relax. I tried to pace in the tiny room, around the cart full of bar back-up materials and the two kegs and the assistant manager.

"You okay?" asked Kristen, who had taken the opportunity to sit down and relieve some of the pressure on her back and feet.

"I hate being trapped," I said. "I get really anxious. And I can't even smoke!"

"Sure you can," she said. "Just blow it out the top there, so it doesn't build up in here. I don't mind. It'll be fine."

"Are you sure?" I asked, incredulously, but I was already reaching for my pack of Camel Lights and my disposable lighter. I balanced on one of the kegs and held the cigarette at the very top of the car, and I watched with pleasure as the smoke curled out, swirling around the legs of the people who'd put me here. After a while, I heard Will's voice, as he tried to reassure the people in the party.

"Where's our beer?" one asked, and it was no longer a good-natured, joking voice. "We expect a certain kinda service when we spend this much money."

"It's in the elevator. There's no other way to get a keg up here, so you'll just have to be patient," he told the man in his I'm-not-going-to-put-up-with-your-bullshit voice. I took a last drag on my cigarette and put it out on my Doc Marten sole.

"Thanks," I said to Kristen, who smiled sweetly through her bad teeth and lank bangs. A firefighter helmet appeared in the gap at the ceiling.

"You folks okay in there?"

"Yeah, we're fine," I said.

"We don't know how to get you out, but the elevator company is on its way."

"Yes," I said. "Christina said so."

I heard Will asking why the hell the fire department had arrived, and I could feel Christina's shrug. "One of the customers called 911."

"Why the fuck would they do that?" asked Will. He had lost his diplomatic edge as he tried to keep the crowd from rioting over the lack of beer.

All in all, I spent nearly 2 and a half hours in the elevator. A representative from the elevator company eventually arrived and began to winch the car down until the outer doors could be freed and realigned. Then, slowly, painfully, he winched us up to the floor. When the doors finally opened, there was a cheer.

"We have beer!" said someone in the crowd, and the cheer grew louder.

"Yes," I said, only half under my breath. "You've got your motherfucking beer."

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Elevators | 17 comments (17 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Been there by ReallyEvilCanine (4.00 / 1) #1 Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 04:56:13 PM EST
"You're more than good enough to do X, Y and Z, but we're going to keep your bitch ass at B and no matter what you do, you'll never see C. You'll see other terribly incompetent fucks at C but you'll never get there as long as we're stealing your oxygen."

Elevators are counterweighted; you only need access to the top where the mail pulley is. It can always be moved by hand to get the car to any level.

Still a good story. +1FP from me.

the internet: amplifier of stupidity -- discordia

Thanks. by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #2 Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 05:19:34 PM EST
And yes, I think that's what the elevator guy did, though he did apparently bring in some kind of a specialized piece of equipment, and we were without elevator for some time until the door was replaced. I didn't much care -- except for the inability to take kegs of beer to the top floor, it didn't hamper my ability to do my job, though the girls who didn't work to develop their upper body strength whined a great deal.

In terms of the restaurant, I maintained my streak -- within a year of when I left, it had closed (later to reopen with different owners). That was the third restaurant in a row for me (and a retail chain I worked for in college closed some years after I left). I guess some unconscious part of me sees the writing on the wall and gets the fuck out before things are right at the end.
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
I hear you on the closed-in panic. by muchagecko (4.00 / 1) #3 Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 05:37:15 PM EST
I always get a little claustrophobic in elevators.

A dear friend in New York had an elevator to her apartment that was always an inch or two short of her floor. It made me so nervous that I often walked up the seven flights to her floor.

Nice story. I especially liked the descriptions of the red-neck yuppies. I spent time with some of those folks in North Carolina. Although most of the folks that lived on the Outer Banks were decent folks.

A purpose gives you a reason to wake up every morning.
So a purpose is like a box of powdered donut holes?
My Name is Earl

Pregnant woman's belly advances the story. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #4 Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 05:43:53 PM EST
Drunken man's breath advances the story.
Woman's bad teeth and man's beer gut do not advance the story and, frankly, can be quite off-putting to your readers without flawless physiques.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Are you stoned? by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #5 Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 08:27:24 PM EST
This really doesn't make much sense.
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
[ Parent ]
No. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #7 Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 12:06:49 AM EST
A stressed-out pregnant woman trapped in an elevator could go into premature labor. It's germane to the story.
OTOH, mentioning a jerk's beer belly is just the writer being offended by fat people and kvetching about that aspect. Why would the writer want to turn off the overweight reader?

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Oh for fuck's sake. by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #8 Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 12:14:26 AM EST
We have to be fat-sensitive now? I was describing one particular dude in one particular moment in my life. His beer gut made enough of an impression on me that I remember it, 8 or so years later. And, by the way, it makes for a better story when readers can picture the characters. If you don't like the story or my telling of it, fine. But appealing to some sort of weird appeal to the "overweight reader" is a stretch. And the fact that the one character had "boozy breath" was in fact, part of the story -- that dude was drunk as shit when he tried to figure out why his kegs of beer hadn't been delivered. Maybe I didn't make this clear, but the redneck yuppies at this party didn't give a fuck about the pregnant woman stuck in the elevator -- they just wanted their kegs of shitty beer.
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
[ Parent ]
I acknowledged the boozy breath guy. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #10 Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 03:26:29 AM EST
That made sense in the context of the story. However, for the sake of your expertise in teaching English, if I turn in a paper which describes a woman's huge canastas without reason to do so, I guarantee you would call me out on it.
And you wouldn't let me off the hook with an excuse that I was simply embellishing the character.
I don't want to sound too harsh, but I think you're socially-aware enough to understand my concern.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
wait by gzt (2.00 / 0) #11 Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 09:42:23 AM EST
tell us more about the huge canastas.

[ Parent ]
they.. by infinitera (2.00 / 0) #12 Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 09:51:45 AM EST
Interfered with weight-lifting and caused back problems.

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
That's a reasonable reason. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #15 Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 12:22:19 PM EST

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
While I don't care what details you include... by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #13 Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 09:55:01 AM EST
I'm not sure it's a valid comparison. I mean, unless you're considering beer guts to be a secondary sex characteristic.
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
[ Parent ]
They're both excessive fatty tissue by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #14 Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 12:20:17 PM EST
which some people like, and some people dislike. A matter of personal preference.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
who likes beer bellies? by garlic (2.00 / 0) #16 Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 07:13:08 PM EST

[ Parent ]
My GF. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #17 Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 08:33:15 PM EST

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Redneck yuppie by Scrymarch (2.00 / 0) #6 Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 09:43:18 PM EST
Or yuppie redneck.

I think that might just describe half my hometown nowadays. It's not all bad, but I know what you mean.

Iambic Web Certified

New money. by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #9 Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 12:15:59 AM EST
Who wants to forget just how hard their parents worked. And who wants to blame the problems of society on "lazy poor people." That's been my experience, largely. But yes, it's not all bad. New money is rarely as bad as old money.
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
[ Parent ]
Elevators | 17 comments (17 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback