So although I’ve told this tale to a few friends, it’s now time to put the whole of the Elevator Incident story in text so that future generations may learn from it.
Friday night, around 11pm. Erin and I were on our way back from the final room of the Pub Crawl. We were back in the Marriott and just as we approached the elevators, we saw that one was about ready to load. I (foolishly in retrospect) rushed us to go get aboard it. And for reference, this group of elevators would hit floors 31-41, as well as the common 10, AL, LL, and ML levels.
It rushed us up towards 31 and one or two people hopped off. It was at this point that two teenage boys, probably around 12, decided to hop once in the elevator just as the doors were closing. This appears to have been the spark of the whole situation. When the doors closed, rather than continuing upwards, the elevator began descending. Very, very slowly.
Of course this caused a bit of a panic. Buttons were pressed, nothing happened. The call button was pressed, nothing happened. The bell alarm button was pressed repeatedly and held down… didn’t seem to do anything but make noise. Because this was a glass elevator, 31 floors up, we could see all of the open hallway balconies nearby. We began waving and shouting at people standing out there, trying to get them to ring the front desk. Some seemed to get the idea. Others just waved. One, wearing a scary clown ensemble, stopped by to laugh at our situation and point menacingly.
People inside the elevator grabbed cell phones and started making calls to friends to ask them to get to the front desk too. I tried to look it up online and call myself, but all I could get was a 1-800 number for the nationwide service. I told them the situation and they transferred me to the desk of the hotel we were at. I relayed the story again, they said they knew, and hung up. Not especially comforting but at least the word was out. Another elevator rider rang 911 to get the fire department involved.
The whole experience was terrifying, in part because we knew we had a long drop until there was even a door to pry open. The folks at the front of our elevator had gotten the doors open a bit to try to get air circulating, but there was nothing outside the doors to escape to. We were descending slowly enough that if you looked towards the more distant balconies, it looked as though we’d stopped… an even more terrifying idea. Frankly, the slow descent just made it all the scarier because it was hard to tell if it was slipping, or if it was intentional. Had it gone two or three times faster, while still certainly safe, it would at least have given the impression that it meant to do that.
The tension was super-thick, and we had 19 people in there to worry about. One of the more courageous (drunk) souls aboard wisely started small talk, seeing who had come the furthest to the con, who was youngest (the fuckers who had caused it), oldest, etc. A brief attempt at a singalong started, but was quashed as someone kept giving the fire department updates and needed quiet.
Eventually we had dropped far enough that I could recognize the 10th floor’s different carpets beneath us, and a time after that I could see that there was someone from hotel maintenance watching us descend, talking on a cell phone. As the 10th floor doors became visible through our open door a pry bar suddenly shot through the small gap and opened the outside doors. The fire department and several hotel maintenance and security folks were present. We were warned to stay back from the door so they could help us out orderly, one at a time, and we had about a foot drop to jump out.
Once outside the emotions flooded. I stormed away from the teenagers who had caused it lest I start something. A few of those who had been in there went aside for a bit to weep a little. Phone calls were made to update friends that we were safe. There’d been half an hour of tension and proper fear for those who dislike heights, elevators, or both, to say nothing of the claustrophobia.
Eventually Erin and I had steeled our nerves and found another elevator to ride back to our room. I noticed in retrospect (the adrenaline of it all had me in a haze for an hour or so) that nobody from the Marriott had stuck around or taken names, but at the time I just needed to rest. We got back to our floor, met a friend who was meeting us at our room, and after giving him his stuff that had been stored therein, we turned in.
For the rest of the convention I found myself telling that tale and hearing of others. Another elevator had been stuck between floors and some folks were trying to crawl out of it. A third had a freakout like ours but only had to drop a floor or so to open again and let everyone out. One individual, on hearing my story, had apparently been listening in on the whole ordeal and said at one point the fire department had been discussing rappelling down to get us out of there. I don’t even want to consider that. Ultimately, when viewed with a logical mind, the elevator did exactly what it should have: prevented us from falling, and we should be grateful that it did. That in no way helped calm the nerves.
Anyway. That’s the tale. I now have a fear of elevators and was edgy as all hell the rest of the weekend riding those things. Oh, and no more Marriott for us. Already registered for the Hilton for next year. Their elevators may have the same safety mechanism, but more importantly, they stop at every floor so we wouldn’t have such a lengthy, harrowing ride out.