Charlie and I took a road trip to Texas recently and checked into a reputable long-stay chain hotel for a few days. The hotel featured free hot breakfast (with ‘robust’ coffee) and a few dinners, so as Charlie would say, “What’s not to like?” Near the end of the week, we were taking our time planning the day, so I volunteered to go down to the breakfast room for refills on the coffee.
I got on the elevator with a nice young man from another floor; we exchanged smiles as the door closed and the car descended. And stopped abruptly. Our eardrums were suddenly blasted by the hideous sound of shrieking sirens and horns. An elevator is a small space and the sound bounced off the walls and assaulted our bodies for several long minutes. It was actually painful.
We covered our ears, without much success, and shouted to each other, wondering what was going on. The noise finally stopped, to our great relief, but the doors did not open and we realized that we were stuck.
We introduced ourselves – his name was Daniel – and started poking buttons on the control panel. Nothing worked. Open/close, floor buttons, nothing. We tried using the elevator intercom to call for help, but nobody answered right away. Neither of us had a cellphone, and my pockets were empty of everything except my room key card.
Daniel poked the intercom button again, this time shouting into it. The voice at the other end took a while to respond.
“Hello, are you okay?”
“Yes, but the elevator is stuck between floors.”
“Which elevator are you in?” Huh? Couldn’t they tell?
We had a chat with ‘the voice’ about where we had entered the elevator and she figured out that we were in the front elevator.
“The fire department will be here in a few minutes to get you out.”
I happened to know the locations of the firehouses since I had lived in the area for a number of years, and knew that it would be more than a few minutes. But, we were curious…why the screeching siren?
So we called the front desk again – and by the way, we had to yell to be heard – not very reassuring if trying to get and give information.
“What was the screeching siren?”
“There was a fire in someone’s room and when the room alarm went off, the entire elevator system shut down. We don’t know why you were not returned to the first floor.”
Hmmmm. The small fire was out, but somebody needed an elevator repair guy to make a visit after the firemen ‘rescued’ us. While we waited, Daniel and I shared our stories – Daniel was there with his family to support his older brother in a competition being held at the local university. I told him I was a writer. He asked if I was going to write about our experience and I laughed, “Definitely!”
I wondered aloud about pulling a MacGyver – Daniel was too young to know about the TV hero from the late 1980s – but then, neither of us had a Swiss Army knife or duct tape on hand. However, Daniel was tall enough to reach up and move ceiling panels aside as we investigated our options. Could we escape through the access panel as seen so often on TV and in the movies? Could we hot-wire anything?
Not in this elevator. The so-called ‘escape hatch’ could not be accessed unless you carried a hex key socket wrench in your pocket to release the bolts. Even then, maybe I could have fit through the space, but not broad-shouldered Daniel. I wondered what they actually use that panel for, since it clearly is not for people removal. As for hot-wiring? There was nothing accessible to us at all.
We exchanged a few more questions and reassurances from the front desk voice and Daniel’s dad, and at long last, the car finished the trip to the lobby and the firemen greeted us as the doors slid open.
When I asked about getting out of the elevator through the ceiling, the wrenches needed and the size of the escape hatch, one of the guys said, “Well, you don’t have to worry about any of that because the elevator comes back to the first floor and you just walk out the front.”
We were never in danger and were only one and a half floors up, so if cables had snapped, we would not have fallen far. Was I scared? Not really and I don’t think Daniel was either. He handled himself well and was good company. We had lots of air to share, since there were only two of us and we were both calm about the situation.
The people at the front desk mentioned that it would never happen again, but I found out later that it had just the night before to another guest. I might have taken the stairs if I had known that.
Charlie said that next time, he’s going to make the coffee run.
Elevators have long been the setting for action, comedy and even love, in movies and TV. And, why not?
There is a built-in constraint of space and time.
The punch line has to be delivered in the time it takes to get from one floor to another.
People who love (or hate) each other are placed into ‘must act’ situations.
Heists are pulled off successfully when the con men escape through the REALLY large ceiling hatches.
The audience is led to believe that nobody standing outside the elevator can hear the plots being hatched or the secrets being shared.
There is lots of potential for great entertainment.
But, in real life, people sometimes get stuck for hours and occasionally die in elevators. I researched elevator stories and these popped up:
Tragically, a young man saved a friend from an elevator death, but lost his own life in the process:
An elevator mechanic was electrocuted while repairing the elevator and working with exposed wires.
That same month, a woman was horribly dragged to her death when elevator shot up while she tried to enter through the open doors.
*Note from Patti Phillips:
My extra long stay on the elevator (as Patti Phillips) really did happen earlier this month, but there are hundreds of thousands of safe elevator rides taken every year.
Thanks to Daniel Gray for sharing the ride in Texas. 🙂
In March, 2014, in celebration of the 100th page on www.kerriansnotebook.com, I published “100 Ways to Die an Unnatural Death.” It quickly became the most widely read post on the site, and stayed at the top for the rest of the year. Professional writers used the list as a reference and fans of the crime/mystery genre searched the list for new (to them) odd ways that people die. Check out the list here.
There were so many responses and suggestions that by June, 2014, we had enough ideas to publish “50 More Ways to Die an Unnatural Death.” That post finished in the Top Ten for most popular posts of the year. Read that list here.
This is the 150th post for Kerrian’s Notebook, and 150 posts is worthy of recognition in keeping with what the Kerrian fans have come to look for.
You might ask, “Are there really more than 150 ways to die an unnatural death?” Oh, yes, indeed.
Thanks to contributions from readers all over the globe, we have 30 additions to the list. All of these scenarios could happen to somebody, somewhere, sad to say. Some are fictional setups based on actual events, some cases were plain bad luck, some were as a result of Mother Nature’s fury, some as a result of deadly intent. Whatever the reason? Dead is dead.
Shovels, pitchforks, and rugs at the ready, please. 😉
151. House collapses during demolition with person inside
152. Person swept away in a flood
153. Water intoxication – you really can drink too much water – from Lori Ryan (www.loriryanromance.com)
154. Drowning – Poet kissed reflection of moon in water before falling overboard.
155. Death by crushed Tylenol in a mincemeat pie – from Ruth McCarty (www.ruthmccarty.com)
156. Death by shooting in a court case – lawyer maintained that a shooting victim could have shot himself while drawing his own gun, demonstrated same, and killed himself. He won the case.
157. Death from starvation – while wife was hospitalized, husband refused to eat anything that wasn’t prepared by her.
158. Death by Segway – owner of the company lost control of his Segway and went off a cliff.
159. Trip over your own beard
160. Choke on dog food – from Jessica Pettengill Messinger
161. Inhaled manure fumes – father & son in Iowa
162. Choked on scarf – caught in dirt bike chain
163. Choked on scarf – caught on the wheel of car in which she (Isadora Duncan) was a passenger
164. Fall off balcony – second floor outside balcony under renovation, floor not finished. Person walks out in the middle of night, forgetting there is no floor, and falls to death between the headers. Credit to Rob & Bobbi Mumm who thought it was a great setup for a murder mystery. Really, both of them are alive and well. 😉
165. Fall off balcony – while fending off wild monkeys (list25.com)
166. Death by carrot juice overdose – 10 gallons in 10 days
167. Collision of car and deer. Both driver and deer die.
168. Elephant steps on vehicle and occupant is crushed
169. Trampled by horse during polo match
170. Kicked in the head by a cow
171. Killed by African lion
172. Attacked and killed by own dog
173. Killed by a hippo
174. Dying of laughter after watching donkey eat figs (list25.com)
175. Killed by a robot arm in a factory (list25.com)
176. Crushed by falling whale
177. Death by soup injection
178. Death by too much bungee cord in a bungee jump
179. Stabbed with a screwdriver – Phillips head, to be specific
180. Overdose of aerosol deodorant – sprayed all over body twice a day
There you have it!
Be careful out there and apparently, be especially careful when you are close to hippos! They kill about 200 people every year! Hmmm…getting an idea for a story…
*Photos by Patti Phillips
We’ve spent way too much time in funeral homes and cemeteries lately. I know it’s a part of the cycle of life, but it seems like every time I pick up the phone these days, I hear another one of those awful messages that starts with: “I’m so sorry…”
This time we put a favorite older cousin into the ground. He was the inspiration for three articles that appeared here on Kerrian’s Notebook last year about the use of firearms – their care and the training needed to maintain safety and competency levels. Any time I wrote an article about firearms, he checked the details for accuracy, then would send me a ‘thumbs-up’ email. He didn’t have a large collection by enthusiast standards – only a half dozen rifles and handguns – but he knew a great deal about the history of each and enjoyed them all at one time or another during his weekly visits to his gun club.
He had been a paratrooper, a sailor, an aerospace engineer, a furniture maker, and most important of all, a churchgoer and a family man.
He died of cancer, but was not a young man – an octogenarian when he succumbed. He chose to fight and live his life fully, right up until the docs admittedly gave him an overdose of meds. And even after that, he went out to lunch and dinner all the time, held court at the local breakfast place every morning and was at the shooting range two weeks before he died. He was chalky pale, but as long as he was able to walk, he was learning how to reload bullets, checking new sources for unusual wood, attending the latest antique car show, chatting with friends he made along the road of life.
Now you might wonder: “80? He probably died of old age.” Nope. In our family, 80 is the age when you admit you’re on Social Security and start talking about retirement. He had been driving for a trucking company up until his birthday in December. They wanted him to stay on, but he said that it was time to slow down a bit. Most of my side of the family lives into our 90s, so I was in denial about my Cuz being that sick.
We still wonder if administering the extra meds was a calculated risk or a really bad choice made by the doc. We know that his intention was not to harm, but to help. But, it was the wrong choice. Not like the slip of a knife during a surgery, or the wrong kind of anesthesia that would cause someone to die on the table, but lethal in the end.
How often does this happen? Medical malpractice and honest mistakes are different in the eyes of the law and insurance companies. At this point in the post, I might normally give you statistics and information that you could use in an article of your own, and Cuz would love that he got to appear in Kerrian’s Notebook once again, even if behind the scenes.
But, today? I’d simply like to salute a guy who lived a life that many would envy, happy until the end. We will miss him.