Today I arrived at my client’s office building on Makati Avenue (and cities have more power than usual on streets that happen to be named after them. You know this, don’t you?) early enough for my usual pre-meeting cigarette and Frappucino fix at the ground-level Starbucks. To my chagrin, the place was unusually packed with people, because apparently some malfunction had occurred and most of the elevators were out of service.
I realized that I would be late for the meet if I had to stand in line to use the elevator, so I heroically postponed my scheduled caffeine and nicotine infusion (and regular readers of this blog will know that already, this bodes ill…) in order to queue up for the lifts. To my surprise and (short-lived) delight, I was able to get into the first elevator car that opened!
I was just not able to get out for the next thirty-five minutes.
The elevator stalled between floors and the doors jammed open, revealing only a wall of concrete blocks. This, I can now tell you from experience, tends to fill one with a sense of existential (or potentially non-existential, as it were) dread, as if the building, the city, and the universe in general have conspired to remind you, in the most cinematic way possible, that there’s no way out.
Except conceivably for the little door on the roof of the elevator, which suspense movies have taught us presents a viable escape route if you happen to be capable of scaling sheer walls or climbing cables hand-over-hand, neither of which are among my repertoire of talents. Still, I found myself considering it while at the same time trying to remember the procedure from my copy of The Ultimate Survival Handbook for delivering a baby, just in case the pregnant woman in the car with me suddenly went into labor. (Admittedly, I was also contemplating using said pregnant woman as a springboard to reach said door on the ceiling in the event of undeniable emergency. Hey, she’s all cushioned, right?)
Still, Filipinos are nothing if not resilient, and very soon we elevator denizens had gone from concern to comedy. Even after the elevator performed a terrifyingly violent up-and-down shimmy (and no, I did leap upon the hapless pregnant woman, despite my worst intentions), we wound up pretending to order Big Mac meals and whatnot from the ineffectual guards who kept assuring us, via intercom, that the elevator would be up and running within minutes.
Well, technically, half an hour is “within minutes”. Just, you know, many minutes.