As the sun approached its high noon position in the clear winter Utah sky, my legs ached from their morning workout of tackling moguls on the ski slopes. Longing for a respite, I zig-zagged down the hill, heading toward the hotel room for lunch. With a click, I snapped off both skis, knocking them together to get rid of the snow before I lifted them up onto my shoulder. Clunking across the hotel lobby, I felt far from graceful with the stiff boots causing me to appear robotic. Trying not to take out any hotel guests with the skis, I focused my eyes directly on the open elevator door, hurrying before it left the ground floor. As the door began to close, I quickly shoved my boot in the way, stopping the door. Breathing a sigh of relief, I rapidly entered, noticing a tall woman with a huge stroller and a sled in her hand. The last thing I wanted to do was impale the young child with the skis, so I removed them from my shoulder. Trying to angle around to face the elevator door, I realized I could barely turn around. That’s when I noticed the elevator was more like a sardine can. Gasping as I tried to maintain my composure, I weakly smiled at the woman before pushing the button to the tenth floor. The white marble walls of the elevator, although upscale, seemed to be closing in on me, so I grasped the gilded handrail for support. Reminding myself to take deep breaths, I attempted to get my mind off the cramped elevator by visualizing the breathtaking snow-capped mountains, the quaint town, and the inviting coffee shop that surrounded the ski lift area. Removing my gloves, I reminisced on today’s skiing through the powdery snow and the moment of enjoying the aroma of piping hot chocolate. Engrossed in my thoughts, I nearly screamed at the sudden jerk and screeching sound of the elevator, catching me completely off guard.
“What was that?” the tall women holding her baby exclaimed as the elevator jerked to a bone jarring halt.
Mouth agape, I stuttered, “Uh…it’s…it’s going to start again….right? At least the lights are still on, so we haven’t totally lost power.” The lady didn’t answer or never heard me since the child’s piercing wail reverberated off the elevator walls. Frantically, I searched for my cell phone in my backpack, opening zippers and pockets, trying to contain my panic. Abruptly, the lights in the elevator flickered off and the groaning noise ceased. We were imprisoned in a pitch black tomb, without a trace of light slipping in through the cracks.
“Oh, please help me!” I screamed plaintively. Even in the pitch black, I sensed the woman’s quiet displeasure, probably thinking that all she needed was another screaming child to deal with besides her own. With shaking hands, I emptied the contents of my backpack on the elevator floor, crawling like an animal, hoping to find my cell phone. I navigated through candy bars and lip glosses until I finally retrieved my phone.
“I have my phone. I’ll call 911!” I exclaimed, crossing my fingers in hopes that I had enough battery power left after a day of sending texts and photos of my morning activities to all my friends. I was also totally relieved to have the phone light to calm my nerves, as it didn’t seem quite so frightening when the light penetrated through the darkness.
As I dialed 911, I heard the woman sigh gratefully, that is until I realized my phone didn’t have any service.
“I’ll press the call button on the elevator to alert the staff that we’re stuck,” the woman remarked as I shined my dimming light on the control area.
Nothing. No response. Just silence. With each lingering moment of futility, my hopes shrank, causing me to slowly slide down the wall and collapse on the floor like a rag doll. I curled into a fetal position, bringing my knees into my hands, shutting my eyes and sobbing loudly. Soaked in tears and sweat, I loosened my ski jacket, gulping for air with each breath, I felt my head spin out of control. I heard the woman pound intensively against the elevator door with no response. Nothing. How much more of this torture could I endure?
Stretching out of my ball, I clawed my way up the marble wall. Wobbling unsteadily, fearing that we would be in this prison cell for a long time or worse yet, that the groaning cables would break free to catapult us to our death below. Clanking noises from above penetrated my fear, and I held my breath, praying it was our rescuers. A shuddering sensation reverberated through the elevator. Doomed, I prayed silently.
Moments later, a fireman appeared above me in the opening, saving us from our torture. I even put on a brave face and assured him, I was just fine. Thinking to myself, Get me out of here! Now! My resolution after that nightmare remains to never ever take the elevator again. Even if I have to trudge ten stories up in robotic ski boots, it will be worth every agonizing step.

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extremes

When the ‘strangers’ land