Saturday, September 10, 2011

Elevator Girl

I am TERRIFIED of HEIGHTS.  When I'm up on top of anything taller than a 6 foot ladder, I feel a vaporous cloud of Highness surrounding me like an evil entity plotting to suck me off of the high place and hurl me to the concrete or grass or plush carpet below. BE-YA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!  It's up there.  Waiting.  For me.  Highnesssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss. 

My men, on the other hand, celebrate the Highness of whatever lies before them be it a mountain top, a monument or a skyscraper.  My Bryce loves to stand at the edge of Highness in awe of its power and glory.  My beloved men see a breathtaking view.  I see certain and imminent death involving a sustained echoing scream.  If they've heard it once, they have heard it 173 times, "BOYS!  Get back from the edge!  YOU'RE MAKING ME NERVOUS!"  If they have mimicked my warning once, they have mimicked it 3042 times in nasal falsetto voices, "Get back from the edge, Bryce!  YOU'RE MAKING ME NERVOUS!"  Hardy-har-har!

I drug my feet into the lobby of the building that day in July.  I had thoroughly voiced my fears only to be met with exasperated retorts of "Mo-om!  You're NOT going to fall off of the thing!" and "I'm pretty sure there's a railing around the observation deck.  Gee-aww!"  Railing shmailing.  Goaded by my men to participate in the  planned activity for that day of our vacation, I stepped one foot and then the other into that elevator.  I could hear my heartbeat pounding my ears.  thunka-thunka-thunka-thunka-thunka-thunka-thunka

Unlike most elevators, this one had an elevator operator - Elevator Girl.  This elevator was far too fine and special to entrust up and down button pushing to your average Joe-off-the-street.  It required a fine and special vest and a name badge.  I don't remember Elevator Girl's face.  I just remember that she was petite with jet black hair and perhaps some piercings - rather course.  She was in her late teens or early 20's.  If I had to guess, I'd say that her name was Khloe-with-a-K.   

As we began our rapid climb, I studied her trying to figure out what brought Khloe-with-a-K to this place.  What force of nature pushed her into this particular building to fill out an Elevator Girl application knowing full well that she was asking for minimum wage shifts of UP-down-UP-
down-UP-down-UP-down-UP-down-UP-down-UP-down-UP-down-UP.  down.  Did she quietly sing a chorus?  "I really need this job!  Please, God, I NEED this job!  I REAL-LY NEEED THIIIIS JOB!"

Elevator Girl was actually a wee bit friendlier than she looked.  She began to tell us facts about the speed of the elevator in terms of feet per second. Ears popped. There were giddy "Dangs!" and "Wows!" and chuckles.  It's not like she was cracking jokes or anything.  Something she said just struck me funny. In the midst of my swelling angst, she made me smile.  

I was happy to see that the elevator doors opened into a gift shop area on the 107th floor.  Logic told me that I would not be stepping directly out onto some precipice like a gargoyle.  Fear begged to differ.  Gift Shop Counter Lady was alive and well.  She wasn't holding on to counter for dear life.  She was counting out change as calmly as a Counter Girl on the first floor of a department store.

"Mo-om, you HAVE to come out here!  This is going to be sooo cool!" the goading continued.  "Mo-om, you can hold my hand.  You're NOT going to fall off of this building."  I wanted to be That Mo-om.  The adventurous Boy Mo-om.  I decided to pretend.  The doors opened.  The wind caught my breath.  I stepped out.

Clinging to the wall of the observation deck like a wet stray cat, I felt nauseous just watching my men stand with their noses poking just past the so-called protective barrier.  Seriously, Protective Barrier?  Do you really think that little you can ward off Highness?  "Don't get so close to the edge!  YOU'RE MAKING ME NERVOUS!"  Eye rolls.  My little parrots squawked, "YOU'RE MAKING ME NERVOUS!  YOU'RE MAKING ME NERVOUS!  BERAWK!"  

Alan gouged the knife of fear in a bit deeper and twisted it grinning.  "They say that these buildings sway a couple of inches either way to keep the wind from blowing 'em over.  Can you feel the swaying?!"  Man laughter.  Oh, I could feel it swaying.  It swayed like the tip of a fly fish rod taunting a salmon in a mountain stream.  Highness.  Swaying.  Back to the gift shop.  Longing for my new best friend, Elevator Girl.

In case you're wondering, I lived another to see another day.  Highness did not win out on July 20, 2001.  Elevator Girl safely delivered me back to solid ground.  I wanted to kneel down and kiss the hot summer pavement and sing praises to God.  I'm alive!  I'm alive!  I must be alive, because I am standing here on solid ground!


Seven and a half weeks later - summer over - boys at school - peaceful house - at 9:00AM, I was in my kitchen loading the dishwasher with one hand while holding the phone to my ear with the other hand.  Right in the middle of a cozy morning chat with my neighbor, Marianne, it happened.  Today Show's Matt and Katie took us there.  Marianne and I hurriedly ended our chatter.  I stood frozen in front of my sink trying to process what I was seeing.

Then, I thought of her.  Elevator Girl.  Khloe-with-a-K.  Dear, precious, young, name-tagged, Elevator Girl of the Special Vest.  Please, God in Heaven.  Keep her safe.

I've kept these tucked away for 10 years.  My great grandchildren will unearth them from my rubble.


Lisa said...

Michael would be right there with you! If you ever need a buddy....Just Sayin'!

Carolyn Lackey said...

That's good to know, Lisa!

Moannie said...

Your story riveted me and I felt what you felt, plus nausea as I am so terrified of heights I have been known to sit down and refuse to move.

Then the added poignancy of knowing the building.

Carolyn Lackey said...

Thanks, Moannie...your words mean so much to me. There are times when blogs fly out of my fingertips just ahead of my brain. This way one of those.

Ashleigh Burroughs said...

Loved this.... it really is the little things that stick with us.


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