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Pulling a Dad

April 7, 2009

All I wanted to do was take the elevator down to get home a little bit quicker.

It is Friday afternoon, 4:35, and I am heading home from work for the weekend. I’ve already called Angeleno’s Pizza to order the cheese bread sticks for T & F (their regular Friday night “pizza” dinner) and in no time at all, I’ll be in the Pathfinder with the radio on, the windows down, and looking forward to being home. I work on the top floor of the biggest building around here which is the 6th floor. Normally, I take the stairs both up and down, but this afternoon, it being Friday afternoon and me being so excited to just get out of work, I push the button to request the elevator which will take me down in mere seconds as opposed to a minute or two on the stairs.

“Bing!” the elevator lets me know it is already waiting for me right there on the 6th floor as soon as I push the button. What luck! The doors open revealing nobody is inside. Good, I think to myself. I don’t have to make any cheap Friday-post-work-small-talk with anyone. I can just quietly go home. I begin to step into the elevator and at the same time, I am holding my car/house keys in my right hand and decide to put them into my fleece jacket pocket for safe keeping until I get to the car.

The act of stepping into the empty elevator and putting my keys into my pocket proves to be more complicated than expected. The keys hit the side of my pocket, and for reasons I still do not quite fully understood, I let go of my keys and watch them fall, dance actually, perfectly, beautifully through the 3 inch separation of the elevator and the 6th floor and then it’s just darkness.

No sound other than a whispered expletive from me as I stand in shock waiting to hear something from the empty shaft, standing in the middle of the elevator door as it shuts on me and re-opens and I finally hear the crash of the keys hitting the concrete bottom of the elevator shaft. It took longer than expected. For a second I consider taking the stairs down, as if making the choice to not take the elevator at this point will somehow keep the hundreds of other people who work here from using it as well. Then I realize it doesn’t matter, the keys are already at the bottom. And so I step inside, turn around back toward the shutting door, and see my face in the mirrored reflection of the elevator doors as they close and send me down. I get to watch my own face the whole way down. No other stops. All I can do is smile and shake my head.

Once at the bottom, I approach the security guard, who is standing at the front desk and simply looking forward to closing out his week and heading home to his honey at 5pm.

“Uh, I dropped my keys down the elevator shaft from the 6th floor and heard them hit the bottom,” I say quietly. The young woman sitting in a chair in the lobby with an unlit cigarette in one hand and her iPhone in the other looks up at me as if to say, “You are so lame” and then she starts texting.  Great, my story is already spreading. The guard, Mike, picks up the phone receiver and goes to dial a number but then stops, letting his pointed finger dangle over the phone numbers…he has no idea who to call but knows he should call someone. He moves his finger slowly in the air just above the numbers and he is still thinking. And thinking. Mike’s not too bright, but he’s good guy. Friendly and always here with a hello or at least a nod. Finally he figures it out and punches in a few numbers. He relays my story to someone on the other end – Mike talks really loud, too – and 3 or 4 people walking by on their way home get a good little chuckle.  Yeah funny.

A few minutes go by and Pat, the burly facilities guy with a Big Gulp-style plastic cup, comes out and asks me some questions: Which elevator? The center one. Do you absolutely need them back tonight? He tells me there’s no access to the bottom of the elevator shaft and that he’ll basically have to go fishing for them from the bottom floor. If he doesn’t find them, he’ll have to wait until they can completely shut down that elevator and then figure out how to get down under there and get them out. I tell him I can get a ride home if needed. He goes off to get “a flashlight and something to fish them out with.”

A few minutes later it is 5:00 and my buddy Mike, the guard, says good luck and goes home. Before he leaves, he is nice enough to give me Pat’s pager number and the number for the main security desk, which has someone posted all the time, in case Pat never comes back.

I call home and give an update. I call Angeleno’s and tell them I’m late and having car trouble, but I will be there to get my bread sticks.

Twenty five minutes pass. Lots of people pass. I am now manning the security desk, which is pretty cool.  Cris calls back to ask what is going on, when will I give up and get a ride home? Just then I see Pat walking back from the elevator, smiling and dangling my keys. He was holding a bunch to tools and  a big expandable bar. He was able to prop open the door and somehow climb down underneath. He said these were the only things down there, which I couldn’t believe. You mean people don’t drop stuff down elevator shafts all the time??

The keys work and I drive to Angeleno’s. I can’t find a place to park because the lot is full and the church across the street is holding their Friday night fish supper and the street is packed with cars for that and so I drive faar down the street. Will this evening ever end?  Finally I turn around and see a car pulling out of Angeleno’s, opening up a space for me. I park there and think – finally some good luck. I grab my wallet from my bag and I walk up the steps and open the door to go in. As soon as I clear through the door, I fumble my wallet out of my hands and watch it sputter across the floor into the middle of the entry of the full restaurant. Nice one! That’s what I get for thinking about good luck.  The girl behind the counter recognizes me and goes to get my bread sticks from the back oven where they’ve been warming for an hour. At least I found my wallet.

“How’s it going?” she asks me, putting the box on the counter.

“Good thanks,” I lie. I give her 5 bucks. I smile, say “have a good night,” and walk back to the Pathfinder.

I get home, I get hugs, I get ragged on about elevators and then I realize I have just Pulled a Dad. In my family that usually means you’ve knocked your head on something: a ceiling light, a door, a hammer (right  Pop?). Now that my brothers and I are all dads ourselves, it has taken on new meanining and it doesn’t have to involve the head. This one counts.

All I wanted to do was take the elevator down to get home a little bit quicker.

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