Since the beginning of May, I have had a business trip either interstate or international every week. That's a lot of inane taxi trips, tussles for overhead locker space, time spent gazing at one tarmac or another and lonely hotel rooms. This may have contributed to my feeling a tiny bit fed up when I dragged myself out of bed at 5am yesterday morning for an early flight to Melbourne and a crucial meeting.
At the club lounge I made a B-line for tea and some breaky to improve my frame of mind. The hot water dispenser was on the blink and squirted its steaming contents far beyond the bounds of my tea cup. Yes. Onto my shoes. The muesli was like mouthfuls of grainy sugar and could not be finished. Deciding to see what delights Qantas would serve up for breakfast in the air, I was bitterly disappointed with my egg and bacon muffin - soggy bits that should have been dry and dry bits that should have been soggy.
My boss handed me the crossword that I so enjoy when killing time in transit but a search through my bags revealed NO PEN! Those wonderful blank squares winking at me and seducing me with their tantalising clues and I was powerless to act! A quick internal tantrum ended in an involuntary snooze in nasty economy class seating. So much for respectable corporate-appropriate hair.
Boss and I arrive at client's building, go up to level 45 where 15 senior people are scheduled to hear me present. No response from our contact to let us in. Where is she? 5 minutes till presentation start time... A kindly woman walks out towards the lifts and asks if we are ok.
"Yes, we are waiting for blah blah to take us through to a meeting."
"Oh, blah blah is in our other building for another big meeting with ECA."
"Oh really? We ARE the ECA meeting! When did we change venues?"
"Oh, didn't Blah blah tell you?"
"No... ... ..."
"Well I'm going to that meeting so why don't we all go across together? Let's just step into this sophisticated, hi-tech, safe-as-houses 21st century lift to take us down the 45 stories to the safety of the ground level and within minutes we will be at the meeting where 15 senior people are scheduled to hear you present. Everything is still on track for a smooth meeting."
As we step into the sophisticated, hi-tech, safe-as-houses 21st century lift to take us down the 45 stories to the safety of the ground level, I make a relaxed joke about the secret fear I had when I felt the lift bounce under our footsteps. Doors close and before we have even had time to politely fix our gaze on the floor-number display monitor, BANG!!! The lift suddenly falls a couple of meters. I just manage to keep adult-like composure as the realisation sets in that the lift is stuck, hovering between floors, 44 stories from the ground. And the doors won't open and we are buzzing for help and suddenly there is a high pitched squealing noise that won't shut up!
I happen to love wide open spaces. The opposite of wide open spaces is small enclosed spaces. The opposite of love, is hate. For the next 30 minutes, I had the chance to work through my feelings of 'hate' (read: irrational fear, panic, nausea, desire to cry like a baby) in the company of my boss, an important client and a fourth woman from the client company who also happened to be claustrophobic, like me. Once the security guards were finally able to get through on the intercom, they asked us our full names (to save the cops precious time identifying our oxygen starved, unrecognisable mashed bodies once we hit level G?!) and told us that the technician was on his way. From ALTONA! In the mean time, he commenced a textbook distraction conversation technique to prevent any incidents with the two claustrophobics imprisoned in the tomb of steel. We could also listen to the distorted voice of a woman mournfully calling to us through the impenetrable lift doors from level 45. "What did she say? I can't understand her. She'll tell our families we love them?!!"
The four of us were sprawled on the floor of the lift, layers of clothing stripped off, with smiling brave faces - the feigned cheerfulness of long-suffering comrades, sharing my crossword puzzle (obtained a pen!) to take our minds off the thinning oxygen and IMPRISONMENT ALMOST LIKE BEING BURIED ALIVE WHERE YOU CAN'T SEE DAYLIGHT OR EVEN A WAY TOWARDS DAYLIGHT AND NOT SURE HOW IT IS THAT YOU CONTINUE TO BREATH EVEN THOUGH YOUR CHEST FEELS LIKE IT HAS CAVED IN ALONG WITH YOUR SUDDENLY VERY TIGHT WORLD when without warning, we felt the lift rush downwards. Not a drop, but definitely an unsettling rush.
A spill out onto ground floor, concerned security guards, replace shoes, coats and scarves, incident reports then onward to very important meeting, where the 15 senior people had been waiting for considerable time, white-faced presentation, grueling meeting afterward and in a stunning turn of luck, a big success to take home with us to Sydney.