The Other Elevator Pitch (aka I want to GET OUT!)

So, after spending my longest time ever in Texas (working; reconnecting with great folks and meeting new ones; learning a lot), I was thrilled to get back home — and thankful for a safe trip. Then, at the airport, two Lyft drivers, who had “arrived” were on the upper deck of the airport and stuck in traffic — not their usual reliability nor as good as Ride|Austin. The app showed they arrived, but they were actually stuck in traffic on the ramp above me (double conspiracy to keep me from getting to the home I craved or just the combined result of the DC area Friday rush of politicians fleeing and the invasion of more protestors (yep, the environmentalists are coming, again!).

Frustrated, tired & hungry, I lugged my steamer trunk-sized suitcase, another, slightly smaller bag and my backpack upstairs to the Washington METRO. At least (I pray, I pray), that would be faster than Friday rush hour on 395. It was smooth METRO sailing from VA to D.C., where I had a ride awaiting me to get me home, sweet, home.

This METRO “SafeTrack” system overhaul stuff isn’t that bad, after all, right. Then, I get to Mt. Vernon Square station. Good news is that it is conveniently near the House of Prayer’s Paradise Cafeteria — I don’t want to see Tex-mex again until 2020. But, the up escalator isn’t working and I was NOT lugging these bags up two flights of stairs — AND, I was getting HANGRY after not eating since a banana breakfast and making a walk/run through Charlotte airport after a gate change required the skills of a former football player I won’t name.

Almost There

I choose to take the elevator out of necessity — they are still amongst the slowest on earth (no Safetrack can fix that I guess). I hit the button and the glass snail comes down, and the doors open wide. It’s just me, and I get on and hit the M — the mezzanine is just one level up.

The door closes and then — nothing. I’m not panicked (yet). It helps that the ride is short and I can see the world around me. I hit the emergency call button and rings and rings. Finally, a woman answers and asks what is the issue. I tell her I’m stuck on the elevator — and I get no response. I watch the trains go by, in both directions, and I’m just standing there like a commuter under glass. People ignore or walking. I start banging on the walls and wave — NO ONE stops. An alarm goes off and the invisible Glasslady of the elevator repeatedly tells me to “Please allow the doors to close.” THEY ARE CLOSED! I could not be any more center and away from the doors. Then, the doors opens an inch, then closes again — like its taunting me. I tried the open door button to no avail. I hit the emergency button, again and it picks up but I hear nothing. I’m just speaking/pleading/bribing and hoping someone hears me.

Then, a woman comes to one side of the glass cage and says something, but I can’t hear her — those things are soundproof! I think her lips mouthed, “I’ve told someone to come rescue you, sir, and I hope they come before you starve to death.” She smiled and I felt a little better. The alarm stopped and I figured the METRO-Warriors were nearby. Then, the alarm starts again! The Glasslady started telling me to leave her doors alone — it failed at trying to pry it open. And, I’m HANGRIER! So, I called 911 (yes, I actually got a cell signal!). I explained my dilemma to the operator and my location. I’m guessing they were sending someone to my rescue, since METRO didn’t seem to care — and it was getting HOT.

A long-few minutes later, a man, with a“Station Manager” badge arrives. He, too, irritated Glasslady, by trying to open the doors. He mouthed something to me — was he taking my food order or telling me to have a seat, it’s going to be an unbumpy night? I’m not claustrophobic — but, I can get there!

The manager (a pretty big guy) was finally able to pry the doors open, and at his side (and helping on doors, too) was the lady who sounded the alarm for me. As I, happily, step out, Glasslady tried to eat one of my suitcases! Big guy and little lady had to get back on door duty to save my dirty laundry!

Free at Last

My new friend, who let several trains go by to watch out for me, said, (with a French accent — which makes everything sound better), “Perhaps, people wouldn’t stop because the weather is so nice out!” I laughed and thanked her for sticking by my glass sides, and she rushed to catch the next train. I shouted, “MERCI BEAUCOUP!” She, turned, and looked a little surprised that I spoke French (yep, plausible accent and all). She didn’t need to know that was pretty much all I got — -first impressions are lasting. She replied, with a big smile, “De Rien!

I still have to lug my bags up the steps and call my ride to say I’ve been emancipated. I prepare to exit, then I go to the station manager booth (dude is back in his seat and on the phone, like nothing happened). I ask him (let’s call him “Chris”, because that’s his name) if I need to file an incident report or something (somebody in METRO needs to know). He CASUALLY asks, “Are you injured?” I say,

“I’m DISTRESSED!” (and now a little pissed)

I can interpret the look he “replied” with, through his glass booth. He asked if I wanted a supervisor, which he explains he explains is “somewhere in the system”, so I’d have to wait. He said he will take the elevator out of service. Case closed, in his opinion. I’m the HANGRIEST, now — and I have a ride and Paradise Cafeteria waiting! He’s a “station manager” AND WITNESS— ain’t that supervisory enough? So, I see this game and thank him by name, so he knows I know. There are enough complaints about METRO on file, no need to add one more, I guess.

I survived. I made it home. I ate. But, this is not customer service — at all. METRO must do better by its customers. Commuter rail service has in operation, around for decades. Why can’t the Nations Capital get it right?

Sidebars

My elevator stories flashed across my mind. This was my 3rd stuck elevator experience. First time, I was in Toronto, for a work conference, and the hotel had a glass elevator between two meeting room floors. A woman in a wheelchair, who was an advocate for disabled people, had arrived and we talked briefly. She went towards the elevator as I went to handle something else. She got on, and pushed the floor and the elevator completely shut down — no lights; no nothing. The fire department had to come and free her. She was calm and took it in stride.

Second time, a pregnant co-worker and I got on an elevator with building-mates in Crystal City — and it just stopped somewhere between floors one and seven. There was 10 of us stuck and I was near the control panel and my pregnant co-worker, who had a subtle look of fear on her face (yep, she was/is claustrophobic).

I made a joke and pushed the button for assistance. Apparently, the joke about my inexperience in delivering babies (or something), and my calm demeanor helped her remain calm. We got off without having to be dragged from between floors or be forced to jump up and down if plummeted. She chose to take the stairs for much of her pregnancy and time with the organization — #HealthyMomma.

Guess I’m an expert in elevators now?

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