Today’s blog is written by one of my favorite Chengdu-ren, Stephanie H. She is an OMS (office management specialist) with the Foreign Service and came to western China just a few weeks after us, so we’ve had two years of China-adventures together. Along with her husband and daughter, she’s headed to Nairobi for posting #2. (Yes, I will be going to visit. Africa has a ridiculous amount of animals that I *must* touch!)
I’m all for new experiences (clearly, because I live in China and believe me, there are some EXPERIENCES to be had here) but one I’ve never felt the need to have? Being stuck in an elevator. We all know the potentially scary scenarios when the elevator suddenly stops and the lights go out. We’ve seen the movies. The cable snaps, plummeting the elevator down…the elevator is crowded and people get hot, crabby and hungry and the bickering starts…two people find love by chance when they are forced to talk to one another….Ok, maybe that last one wouldn’t be so bad. However, to my pleasant surprise, none of those horrific things actually happened. Here’s what actually happened:
I was on my way home from work, schlepping my ginormous gym bag and a big sack of potatoes (for the potluck dish I was bringing to the consulate Egg-stravaganza the next day). I stepped into the elevator with a young Chinese man, pressed the button for my floor and up we went…for about 17 floors. Somewhere between the 17th and 18th floors, the elevator jerked to a stop and the lights went out.
Now, in the States, you’d have a little phone that calls an emergency person (or the front desk at a hotel) and someone speaks your primary language to you and immediately dispatches help. In China, there is no such phone. What you have is a button that rings a bell, which in the case of my building, connects to the security office. With a slight crackle, a voice speaking a million miles a minute begins saying something in a language I’m shaky at best in understanding. The young Chinese man (whose eyes have been glued to his phone since our fateful ride began) explained our situation to the disembodied voice. Then, in fairly perfect English, he turns to me and translates what The Voice said. Oh, what joy! I felt I had won the “Who Would You Want To Be Stuck In An Elevator With?” lottery! The Voice said that it would be ten minutes, the power went out in the whole building and they had to reboot (?).
Resigned to forced conversation which was WAY better than awkward silence, I learned my new “roomie” studied photography in the United States for 5 years (hence, the good English) and actually had hopes to return there in the next 5 years to live permanently. We chatted about different states, what he liked about the U.S. (freedom), what he didn’t like about it (food). And then we took a selfie together to commemorate our bonding time.
Ten minutes later, the lights came on…but we were not going anywhere. So we rang the button again. I should mention that while my roomie had no cell phone service, I somehow did. I was texting furiously with my husband (and my best friend, of course) and my knight in shining armor worked behind the scenes to make sure the building security knew that people were still stuck in the elevator. Apparently, word had not gotten around after we rang our little bell that we were still inside.
40. MINUTES. LATER. We hear voices yelling stuff down to us from the floor above. Then the elevator started jerking upward as if someone was manually pulling us up (which they totally were). The doors pried open and we are met by the head security guy and his trusty sidekicks, the hotel engineers. My roomie decided to take a photo of them, probably for his scrapbook. We gathered our things, exited the elevator on the 18th floor and started heading for the stairs. My roomie lived on the 19th so he only had one flight to traverse. I lived on the 24th so I had a few more to go.
We got to roomie’s floor and realized that the doors are locked from the stairwell and there is no door handle so we went back down and ask one of the engineers to let roomie in on his floor, and me on mine. The engineer asked what floor I lived on and when I told him the 24th, I saw the look of slight panic and dread in his eye. He then helpfully asked if I wanted to take the elevator.
Yes, he asked that.
I looked at him like he’s crazy because I have THE WORST poker face and told him “No, thanks.” He replied with “Oh, are you sure? Because it’s working now.”
“No, no I’m good. I’d rather take the stairs.”
So, I made this poor man who probably smoked at least two packs of cigarettes a day haul his skinny-self up 5 more flights. With a “bu hao yizi” and a “xie xie,” I walked the length of the hall to my home while he decided to take his chances going down with the elevator. Good luck, dude.
After all that, thank goodness my roomie wasn’t a creep-ster.