The rational and irrational

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I was briefly accidentally trapped in an elevator a few months back. I was leaving a friends place. It’s only a small block of flats, and she’s on the top, third floor. Although it would be no trouble for me to use the stairs, someone once told me, a man who did long distant running over the Swiss mountains, that it was not good for you to put your heart under strain unless you had first warmed up, and hence I have always taken his advice, and used the lift, for fear of heart attack. A convenient point which has served my lazy better nature over the years. Stair walking seems a dilatory activity to someone, like myself, who has the tendency to arrive at the last possible moment.

So as I left her apartment, and rather than the ten second skip down the three flights, I thought I’d go in luxury. I pushed the button, the doors closed, and I checked my messages. It was not until a little time had passed, did I realise that the thing hadn’t actually moved anywhere. I pushed the button again. Nothing. Strange. Pushed it again. Had I already arrived? Pushed it again. Why won’t the doors open.
Evidently, I don’t suffer from claustrophobia in any way, but I remember thinking,
‘F…ing hell! I’m going to be late for my appointment.’

After pushing in vain all the buttons again, I phoned the friend.
‘The lift is blocked!’
To which she replied,
‘Not again!’
She came out of her flat, and over to the lift, and after calling to me to check which floor I was on, she proceeded to push open the sliding doors, and I made my escape. Frankly, it hadn’t occurred to me that I might have been able to push them open by myself. I wouldn’t have thought it possible.
Anyway, after lamenting the administrator of the block, and the lack of maintenance, and how it could happen that you could easily end up being stuck in there for hours, we once again said our goodbyes, and I went my way.

On my following visits, I have several times used the stairs, but invariably take the elevator. Nonetheless, I have always been, for years and years, wary of using lifts in empty buildings, especially holiday apartments by the sea in winter, where you can easily imagine the emergency alarm not working, especially in the days before mobile phones.

My reaction is not of panic, but a rational and practical fear of getting stuck and not being able to go where I should be. Of being an unwitting prisoner. But for those with a phobia about it, mix the rational with the irrational. In a land of few high-rise buildings here in Europe, the problem can be avoided normally. But not always.

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