An elevator sample-pack of Track & Field Athletes give us a snapshot of when needing a lift and a feeling of Elevation only AFTER being being rescued from one....Oh, and of how Anxiety Disorder can sometimes play a part in "saving lives" a.k.a. be beneficial.
sometimes a lift comes from being freed from a lift.
In less than 24 hours I will be competing in my first NACAC race but what better pre-race preparation than an happenstance team-bonding experience of getting trapped in an elevator?--not only trapped but for 30+ minutes! *Aw snaps* --"Oh! I mean please no. Elevator...Please, don't snap!"
The responsible TeamUSA Track & Field athletes we are, we began herding ourselves into elevators to get to the team meeting on the 27th floor of the Toronto University dormitory. Following the meeting was supposed to be our team photo, which means we were ALL dressed in our Nike provided Podium kit--long pants and sleeves covering our body on a warm 80F Ontario evening. My portion of the elevator ride began on the first floor, so, as teammates piled in at each stop--as we make our way toward the 27th floor--I positioned myself in the back left corner of the elevator. My high-jumper roommate, Loretta, who is 6'2" tall (an entire foot taller than my humble 5'2" frame) is standing to the right of me. A representative from practically ALL of Track & Fields disciplines trickle through the opening doors: "We have room for one more!" exclaims a sprinter who has positioned herself near the button selections panel at the front of the elevator (she's a few people in front of me).
We will learn quickly that we're in Elevator #3. It is getting tight...we feel like sardines but people keep squeezing in one or two at a time per floor we stop at. My height is the minority in the group, I realize this only after we have to call for help. The median height, my roommate and I later guesstimate, is 5'11". In the center of the elevator were 4-5 throwers representing shot-put, javelin, discus and hammer. They are super tall and strong as oxen. Next to them is one of our pole-vaulters, 1-2 each of our long, triple and high jumpers--all of them tall and built like giraffes and clydesdale. Near them we also have our sprinters and hurdlers ranging from 100m through 400m who are built like cougars--their height ranging between 5'5" and 5'10" along with the 5km-10km distance athletes with the same height range but built like gazelles. We have one coach, who, thankfully didn't feel much taller than I am and is standing near me...and one other race walker (our only foreign "representative" stuck on the elevator and sharing my general height of 5'3"...She, like me, happens to be cornered in the back of the elevator--she was standing opposite of me. We each stand on our tip-toes from time to time to check on one-another--as if to be subliminally saying "Hey! You're one of me! We'll have each others back."
The elevator temperature is rising and the elevator was, too, until....ERK! *slight drop* *suspension kicks in to save us from a grand fall* Ummm..."Oh helllllll no" Exclaims a couple of us in unison. We are stuck! the doors won't open and the error alarm is flashing. CRAP.
We have an 800m runner front and center in front of the doors. He attempts to pry the doors open with his strength and succeeds only for us to discover that the doors open to another set of doors. UGH. "WAIT! We don't want to break the elevator further!" warns another of us.
Meanwhile the person located near the Emergency call button pushes the button to call for help.
Concierge (although we're in Canada she has a thick Chinese accent) "Um, hello? How can I help you?"
A bunch of us in unison - "Help us! We're stuck!"...One of us - "We're in Elevator 3...between the 24th and 25th floor..." In Unison - "We can't get out!"
...I'm not going to extend this out as long as our minimally "helpful" concierge did for us. We had to ring her multiple times and re-iterate that we are stuck. She seemed to have difficulty understanding us. Eventually she DOES figure out that we need her to perform an Action but she fails to recognize the urgency--this becomes obvious after approximately 10 minutes of standing there. Waiting....
I felt ridiculous making the following announcement but it also felt necessary: "Okay so...um...I have Anxiety Disorder. Uh... the sooner we can get out of here the better. I am managing but the longer we go without an update the higher the risk of an all-out panic attack. Can someone please try calling the concierge again? Can we all try our phones to get someone to help?" Through nervous teeth I try to (as calmly as I can), Plead.
As a few of us try our phones (none of us have strong bars) -- several of us recording Instagram videos that will likely post AFTER our bodies are removed from the confines of the elevator...but at least there will be document of the events leading to our fate.....whatever that fate will end up being. heh.
The coach next to me, thankfully, was finally able to get a hold of our lead Team organizer who confirms that the concierge has someone on their way. But I don't trust the wording...someone? Dude, we need the fire department or something. What's taking so long? I KNOW it doesn't take this long for technicians to arrive at an elevator...Where is he or she coming from? Mars? Finally, we get an update from the concierge (after we've asked for one repeatedly): "Hi....*annoyed voice* Our technician will be here in 20 minutes."
Ummm...WHAT?!? TWENTY MORE MINUTES?! Frickin' crazy! (my silent thoughts are screaming within me).
The air is getting thin, sweat is dripping down our individual skulls, some of us attempt at removing our jackets but we're packed so tightly against each other that the conquest involves help from our closest neighbor. Our athletic career and demise flash before my eyes--HEADLINE in newspaper reads: Track and Field Athletes Pass Out and Some Die of Heat Exhaustion While Trapped in Elevator. Ack! I do what I can to control my breathing and keep my heart-rate at a reasonable pace. I've been dealing with and managing my Anxiety Disorder for some years now...I've long since recognized some of the benefits of having it, too. For example, we plan for and even map out options for obtaining potential safety if or when we find ourself in an emergency situation. So this became my list of options and action items:
- Call Concierge for help. If that takes too long or fails...
- Attempt to open elevator doors but this may have some added risks...
- Call 9-1-1 to get in touch with the Fire Department. I read somewhere that Fire Departments are strategically located within 10 minutes of any emergency. They are MUCH more reliable than a technician taking his sweet time to get to us. Ugh. Also, in most situations of low phone reception a phone call to 9-1-1 will still work even if other phone numbers don't work. BUT if the fire department takes too long or fails...
- Go 007 Bond, Mission Impossible, and or Bourne style and climb out of the top of that elevator like the ninja we all fantasize we are.
(Notice: This is a last resort option since doing so could put as at risk of breathing in dangerous asbestos).
I call 9-1-1, and, HALLELUJAH! I get a ringtone and a non robotic voice. Winning. She immediately puts me in touch with the fire department and within 5 minutes we hear our worldwide favorite heroes--Fire Fighters--on the other side of the elevator doors.
Two more long minutes and then fresh air never felt more nurturing. We live to tell the tale. We live to breathe-in and breath-out another day, another competition, another opportunity to be grateful for golden moments disguised as Silver or Bronze. <3
But the moral of my telling this story:
Don't be shy of recognizing perceived weakness as one of your greatest (and even life-preserving) strengths.
Fun Fact: From where I was standing and due to my height I could only count 11 total people in the elevator. The maximum capacity posted in the elevator was 18. The fire fighters counted 23 of us as we stepped through the doors toward a whimsical sense of liberation.