“Why do I always cut it so close?” I thought to myself. I checked the time on my phone, 12:55pm. I had 5 minutes to get to the meeting. Realistically I had 10. This case had been pretty drawn out. All parties involved were familiar with my chronic tardiness. I removed my jewelry, dropped it into a dish with my phone and placed it next to my purse on the x-ray belt. I stepped up to the metal detector and waited to be waived through. It was my lucky day. My bra’s underwire didn’t trigger buzzers nor sirens, a rare occasion indeed. I skated by, picked up my belongings, and headed to the elevators. I glanced at my phone, 12:57pm. I smiled to myself and thought, “I’m practically early.”
A number of elevators arrived at the ground floor simultaneously. My lucky streak continued. The vast majority of the crowd piled into the closest elevators to the security desk. I opted to walk to the more distant and less densely populated elevators. I glanced to the bank on the right. “Five adults, one toddler.” I counted to myself. I looked left. “Five adults, no children. Winner,” I decided. I made a sharp left and quickly hopped onto my elevator of choice, immediately claiming a corner near the doors.
“7th floor, please,” I asked of the stout gentleman nearest to the destination control panel. As he raised a short, plump finger, the seams of his tweed jacket screamed for mercy. I decided that his jacket likely stopped fitting him sometime in the Clinton era. Even his bow tie was too tight. A roll of greasy neck fat hung over his collar like a scarf. After fighting against the restraints he called clothing, he obliged.
“Thank you,” I uttered, mostly just out of respect for the social expectation of gratitude for the completion of even the most menial task. He then looked me in the eye and bared his dingy brown teeth in a broad, dreadful smile. I politely returned the gesture with a meek half-smile, and immediately averted my eyes directly forward to the “customer assistance intercom” panel on the wall ahead of me. Out of the corner of my eye I could see that he was still leering at me, his ample head noticeably moving up and down as he gave me the once over. I pretended he was a member of the defense team that I hadn’t yet met, and he was just sizing me up before trial. I checked my phone, 12:58pm. My irritation with Professor Plump subsided immediately. I went back to being mighty proud of myself for being “on time”.
As the elevator began its ascent, an audible SNAP! started a terrifying chain reaction. Gears were grinding as the elevator lurched and stopped. While most of us simply gasped, the young pregnant girl behind me, who had up until now been mindlessly chattering away on her cell phone, began screaming.
“Jesus Christ, get a grip,” I thought to myself. The elevator had been still for just a few seconds when it attempted to resume its upward journey. Metal on metal screeched and again the lift jumped, dropped, and stopped. The Pregosaurus Rex was still shrieking. I stopped judging her. I considered joining her.
Instead I checked my phone, 1:00pm. “Damn it, c’mon!”
Then I saw it, sucking all of the hope from my soul, ‘No Service’. “Wonderful,” I thought, “commence wailing”.
“Ma’am, would you mind pressing the ‘Push for Help’ button directly in front of you?” The gentleman behind Professor Plump snapped me out of my pre-panic meltdown with his condescending request. I realized for the first time that he was wearing a badge. He was in street clothes, but still carried a holstered gun. “A detective,” I decided. I took a deep breath and complied. Immediately the “Call is being placed” button lit up like a stoplight. I exhaled a sigh of relief.
My comfort was short-lived. The voice that returned my electronic plea for help sounded like it was coming from another planet, in a distant galaxy, from another point in time, in an alternate dimension.
“W… a… … … yo… si… We a… …ing on th… … …ow.”
“What?!?” I asked no one in particular, “Did anyone understand a word of that??”
“I think I caught ‘we’ in there somewhere,” replied the officer with a smart ass smirk on his smug face.
“A regular Sherlock-fucking-Holmes,” I thought to myself.
Ignoring him, I shouted into the intercom, “What? This speaker has more static than a polyester suit in the winter. Can you hear me? We need help! We’re stuck here!”
As the Pregosaurus’ anxiety attack raged on, the little blond kid in the corner began to laugh. In response to the keep-it-up-I’m-going-to-end-you glare I shot him, he shrugged and said, in a very thick Russian accent, “Thees hoppeen een Rossia aoll zee time.”
I found his input to be less than helpful, so I turned away, rolling my eyes as I did so. Professor Plump on the other hand, was riveted.
“О! Какая часть России вы?” That oily bastard started a conversation with the little Ivan, in Russian, of course. I shook my head in disbelief. At least the distraction made Pregosaurus stop bellowing. She seemed comforted that Ivan had survived similar ordeals in the past. I also noticed that she was no longer yapping like a chihuahua into her phone. The only logical explanation was that she too was without service in our suspended tomb. It was the first break I had caught since stepping into that death trap. I checked the time. I was absolutely stunned to learn that only 2 minutes had passed since I last looked.
I stared at the red light that indicated that my call for help had been placed. By sheer will I tried to force the green “Call answered” button to light up. It didn’t. I was still trying to conjure telekinetic power when I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder.
“Excuse me, excuse me dear,” a soft voice was interrupting my focus, “would you mind switching places with me?” she asked feebly.
I looked at her incredulously. “Can you not see that I’m trying to save us all?” I wondered, “Besides, this is my corner. I claimed this spot. Kick Professor Plump, Sherlock Holmes, Ivan, or Pregosaurus out of their spot. This one is MINE.”
“I didn’t plan to be on my feet for so long. I didn’t bring my walker,” she went on.
“Who does she think she is, Betty fucking White? YOU forgot your walker and now it’s MY problem. Fantastic.” I knew I was paving my way to hell with my silent assessment of each of the strangers with whom I was trapped and surely going to die. “Go to heaven for the climate, hell for the company,” I thought as I looked around, “Oh shit, what if the elevator actually crashed into the concrete depths of the courthouse basement and we’re all dead? What if this IS hell?”
“If I could just prop myself up in that corner there and lean on the railing…”
“Fine.” I interrupted. I wasn’t paying attention to what she was saying anyway. Besides, I couldn’t win this one. Every horrible person in that elevator was now an audience; an audience waiting for the bitch in heels to relent her sweet corner spot in our mutual coffin to the adorable little white-haired old lady with sore legs.
I attempted to secure a new place along the railing but Pregosaurus had decided to make herself at home. She was sitting in the corner, rubbing her protruding belly, with feet outstretched along the side wall nearly all the way to where Betty White was now standing.
I turned around to assess the railing situation at the back of the elevator. Ivan saw me coming and plopped down on his bony ass. He looked me right in the eye, gave me a fuck-you grin, and extended his skinny jean encased lower limbs along the back wall. He took out his phone and began snapping pictures of himself and his surroundings like he had just hiked to Machu Picchu.
Professor Plump too lowered himself to the floor. His all-too-tight clothes did not simplify his efforts. The elevator shook as he shimmied down the wall. I was sure all of the jostling would send us careening toward the underworld at any moment, if we weren’t there already. After much grunting and some inexplicable sweating, Plump’s ass finally reached the ground. I noticed that he actually made an attempt to consume as little space as possible. He hugged his knees to his chest in an effort to keep the area around the elevator doors unobstructed. It was like watching Jabba the Hutt assume the fetal position.
I was relegated to the middle of the elevator, in 4″ stilettos, with nothing to lean on, nowhere to sit, and a portly stalker now enjoying his front row view of my legs. I looked over at my last bastion of chivalrous hope.
“That was nice of you.” Sherlock had a firm grasp on the obvious.
“Thanks, I just wish I had worn more comfortable shoes today.” I angled for sympathy.
“I don’t know why you ladies even wear those instruments of torture. All you do is bitch about how much your feet hurt when you have them on. And, what if you had to run from a rapist?”
Clearly I wasn’t going to get sympathy from this asshole. “I suppose I would just kick them off and go.”
“There ya go,” he replied, “just kick ‘em off.”
I looked at the floor. Spots of black putty that used to be chewing gum clung to it. A collection of paper clips, dust, leaves, and various other bits of filth were creating new ecosystems around each disgusting blemish. I realized I was happy to remain standing, with my shoes on no less.
I looked at the holster on his hip. I envisioned myself reaching out with the grace of a ninja, unfastening the strap that held the gun in place, and liberating the weapon from its restraints in one fluid motion. I was debating whether I would shoot them all, starting with Sherlock Shithead, or just make quiet sniveling hostages out of each of them when I heard it…
“Psh psh psh psh psh psh”
“What the hell was that?” I heard it again,
“Psh psh psh psh psh psh”
It was Betty White. She was making the strange shushing noises with her mouth. Her eyes were fixed on the green light in front of her.
“Green light? Hell yes! Call answered!” I celebrated in my head.
“Psh psh psh psh psh psh”
“Is she having a stroke? What is she… OH MY GOD, WHAT IS THAT SMELL!?!?”
I looked down at Professor Plump. He had one hand over his nose and mouth. He was using he other in a desperate attempt to use the railing to pull himself off the floor. He failed. He landed with a great thud and flailed about like a beetle on its back.
I wondered as I watched, “What is the weight limit on this thing anyway?”
Sherlock Holmes buried his nose and mouth into his collar. I could tell by the tears collecting in the corners of his eyes that it was a relatively futile effort. He began coughing and clearing his throat. I think he was starting to taste it.
“Vat ees dat smeel!?!” Lacking any tact whatsoever, Ivan blurted out what we were all silently deliberating. Well, sort-of. He said something that sounded like what we were all thinking.
The Pregosaurus Rex was writhing on the floor in agony. That’s when I realized it. The noise coming from Betty White’s mouth was intended to cover any noise that may escape her ass as she set loose a foul, constant stream of tainted wind into our crypt. Pregosaurus was in the danger zone, directly behind Old Fart, face level with the gas gun. The way she gagged, choked and carried on, I was sure she was going to break her water right then and there.
Betty White, aka Old Fart, maintained complete composure. She didn’t crack a smile. She didn’t look at any of us. She didn’t move at all. She stood silent and stoic. Clearly she was the source of the stench, but I wondered for a moment if she even realized it.
“Psh psh psh psh psh psh”
“Goddamn it! She realizes it alright!”
I had reached my breaking point. That damn green light had been on for at least an hour now, or so I believed. I checked the time, 1:07pm. 10 minutes had passed since I stepped through security. 10 MINUTES!
“I’m trapped in some realm where time passes infinitely slower. This MUST be hell. I’m dead. We’re all dead. Old Fart is Satan! That’s it! This is our eternal punishment for being terrible people. No way, I can’t be as awful as the rest of these dolts. I bet the other elevator, the one with that kid on it, was the stairway to fucking heaven! I almost got on that one. This is a mistake. I don’t belong with these people. I took the wrong elevator. Maybe I should tell Betty White/Old Fart/Satan. Surely she’ll understand and let me out of here. Yeah, Satan will understand. Shit! What am I going to do?”
The elevator began shaking again. Professor Plump was trying to free himself from his tiny coat. It wasn’t going smoothly, like a mental patient trying to escape a straight jacket. That twat waffle was intent on snapping whatever cables remained intact and riding the fast track to hell.
“That’s it, I’m taking the gun. I’m putting Plump out of his misery first.”
I looked at Sherlock. He was picking his nose, PICKING HIS NOSE! I recoiled in disgust. He caught my revolted look. He removed his snot hook from his nostril and rested his contaminated hand on his holster.
“Fuck the gun, I’m not touching that thing now. I need a new plan.”
I turned toward Ivan, who had just snapped a picture of my snapper. That’s right, he was holding his cell phone near my ankle, screen up, and firing off crotch shots. I kicked the phone out of his hand with my heel. He looked at me with disdain.
I returned a look that said, “Screw Plump. You’re the first to die, Ivan.”
The Pregosaurus Rex was either practicing breathing techniques or was in active labor. I didn’t care either way. She was at least 9 1/2 months pregnant. I was sure we’d still be trapped here when that demon came out of her, whether she was in labor now or not.
“That’s what this place needs, a crying baby.“
“Psh psh psh psh psh psh”
“Oh hell no, Betty White! You did NOT just shit your pants again. That’s it. I’m going to kill you all with my bare hands. Come here, Ivan. I’ll shove that phone so far down your throat that you choke on my photographed muff, you little pervert. Your turn, Plump! I’ll twist that ugly bow tie until you suffocate slowly you fat fuck. Ugh, Sherlock, stick that finger up your nose again so I can shove it through your brain! And you, Pregosaurus…”
“Wait, was that? It was! We’re moving!”
The elevator stopped smoothly this time and another DING! rang out like the sweet sound of church bells on Easter Sunday in the Vatican. I swear I heard a chorus of angels sing as the doors opened and a cherubic palm extended into our cell. Shunning my cellmates, I snatched his hand and skipped out of our cage ahead of all of them.
“So sorry about your ordeal, ma’am,” he said as he tipped his hat, “I hope it didn’t cause too much inconvenience.”
I replied over my shoulder with a sprightly tone as I scurried away, “No problem, sir! These things happen. It was no big deal at all. I’m not even that late.”
I looked at my phone, only 1:10pm. Well, at least that last part was true.