American Elevator

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“It has been fifteen years, one month and ten days since we increased our security procedure” He repeated these numbers, adding to them every day.

Seemingly someone stupid has not observed the rules,  disregarded seriousness, resulting in a queue.

“If you can’t comply with these conditions, we cannot allow you access to our facility”

The length of the queue, the moment opportune.

“You know I don’t like heights!” She hissed, not a fan of skyscrapers, or steep inclines it’s true, she missed the point of the tourist attraction’s defences.

“You can’t leave me! It would look odd for a husband without his wife, with views to see, up high!”

She pleaded to stay downstairs, in amongst the tourists. The vast and tempting gift shop with far too much to choose. He disagreed quite righteously… insisting she accompany him, her vertigo denied.

As they shuffled through the metal detector arch, the officious security man’s mantra regarding the length of time “Fifteen years” and so on, dragged them further along the queue. Increased security, confidence undermined.  Lines, only humans form them, and only tourists would queue for an elevator, a fancy lift to nowhere. The perfect place for people watching peering eyes glancing, accusing:

“Who?”

Holidaymakers herded like cattle. Most with a companion, but one odd occasional tourist stands behind her. He is from Alaska, and reports:

“I don’t get out often” to anyone within earshot.  Odd occasional tourist makes eye contact, presumes she is alone.

“Tell me, are you visiting this attraction for business or pleasure?”

“Excuse me?”

“I said, are you here for business or pleasure?”

His question open ended, she swiftly closed with “NO!” The woman had never been so pleased to see her husband  return from the restroom. The odd occasional tourist had not expected romance quashed, dreams dashed. You see; elevators are great places to meet people, he had read that somewhere (someplace) It had been fifteen years since the odd occasional tourist had met anyone.

An attitude of teenage backpackers travelling no further than outside the U.S. over excited, peaking too soon, speaking too loudly, and reporting on pointless smartphone applications.

“Look, this one works out your ‘stripper name’ BLAH BLAH, BLAH, BLAH BLAH. I didn’t know that Bali is not part of India!”  Their nonsense lost towards the end of the line.

The security mantra softens in the distance, dollars exchanged for  tickets – reluctantly accepted. Feeling dizzy already at the sight of those lift doors, their dull shine, their promise of space fearfully anticipated, eagerly embraced, by her husband alone.

“Don’t look up, and do not look down!”

The elevator holds ten tourists, all of reasonable weight. The collective ten  play happy family for less than a moment. The 500ft takes forty-one seconds, except on days that are windy on which it takes longer, the brochure threatens. Her suspicion raised, the needle has stood for over fifty years – but does that make it safe? She buries her head in his chest, silently counts to forty-one, like an elongated game of hide and seek. The powerful rush, the strange sensation, the elevator catapults the tourists into the air with inexplicable physics.  Those forty-one seconds seemed twice as long. So worried, that she did not even notice the beautiful attendant, smartly dressed, skin like an Easter egg. But a middle-aged woman certainly did, along with her giggling counterpart.

“Well aren’t you somethin’ honey !” The woman did not blush from under her sun visor.

“The Space Needle was built in 1962, for the ‘World Fair'” The beautiful attended repeated, with little time for his speech.

“Do you enjoy your job?” The woman said, managing plenty of time to flirt.

“It has its ups and downs” He smirks with perfect teeth, and then it’s time to get out.

She is still buried in her husband, the flirting woman pushes past. She walks backwards out of the elevator, legs like jelly, stomach in her mouth. She is not the only one to be adversely affected, a sobbing, shaking middle-aged man is dragged out by his wife.

“I’ll just wait here, over by the door, where I feel safe, maybe sit on the floor,” She says. He looks dismayed, but leaves her there, not wishing to waste those dollars. He marks his visit on the map. He takes in the view, the expanse of water, miles and miles can be seen under miles and miles of cloud, are they mountains in the distance? After a couple of solitary self-portraits on the observation deck (saluted by the odd occasional tourist), It is time to rescue his wife, she is standing by the elevator, eyes firmly shut, head cradled in her hands.

“My brain is swimming, I feel so dizzy, It’s all your fault of course!”

They go back to the start, the same whooshing sound accompanies them to the ground. Reuniting with gravity, the best bit of the day for her. He is oblivious to the sensation, insisting on a T-shirt or at least a keychain to prove he ‘got her on that elevator!’

It feels like fifteen years since they visited Seattle.

They say it will get better, with therapy and graded exposure.  She will not engage, however, with confined spaces that have no way of escape. Her acute case of acrophobia, claustrophobia, stranger danger, husband blamed catastrophe.

Fifteen years, and still no official name for ‘fear of elevators’.

Samantha Henthorn © 2016

Part of my collection of short stories ‘QUIRKY TALES TO MAKE YOUR DAY’ soon to be self published on the self publishing machine, watch this space.

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