I was just a poor girl
Though my story’s amply told…
The year is about 1966. I’m answering phones in a law office for a living, too damn dumb to know any better so having a pretty good time with life. The firm occupied three stories at the top of the (now defunct) Transamerica Title Building, smack in the middle of
decrepit beautiful downtown Phoenix. So my station — we had four receptionists’ stations, each with rotating systems that could handle 12 calls at once — was on the 13th floor (wouldn’tcha know it).
One day I got off for some excuse and went out to go to lunch or some such. Got on the elevator and proceeded toward the ground floor and the fine greasy spoons and department stores that waited on the streets of downtown Phoenix. Two or three youngish men get on with me. I believe, in retrospect, that they’re clients, because I would remember if they’d been the firm’s associates, clerks, or partners.
We press “1” on the panel and watch the doors close. The elevator starts down and then…it accelerates like a rocket caught in the gravity of the planet. Which, of course, is exactly what it was. A rocket caught in the gravity of the planet.
The pack of us kind of stand there, none of us saying anything or moving: like, This isn’t really happening, is it? Tell us this isn’t happening…
I’m standing closest to the control panel. None of the men budges.
I study the controls and can’t figure them out. There’s no “STOP THIS DAMN ROCKET” or “ABORT ABORT ABORT” button. But there’s an emergency call button. So I say, “You think I should press this one?”
One of the men says, “Yeah. I think you should.”
I jam my dainty finger in it, privately wondering which of the rest of them to push if this doesn’t do anything. All of them, I figure…
But, mirabilis, it does work.
In those days, Otis elevators were equipped with these prongs that wrapped under the carriage. In case of free-fall, they were supposed to SPROING out and slam into these slots in the wall, thereby whanging the elevator to a proverbial screeching halt.
When I hit the “emergency alarm” button, that released our prongs and jammed the cab to a stop.
We managed to prize the doors open and climbed out onto the second floor.
We had fallen eleven stories. Only three more stories to go before we hit the basement floor.
And that is why any day, I’d rather climb a few flights of stairs than ride an elevator.