Philadelphia Metropolis


What Goes Up, Must Come Down

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I left Philadelphia 23 years ago. In my time away I lived in a Navajo hogan, an adobe hut, a yellow tent, a teepee, a yurt, a barn, a storage locker, and too many apartments, houses and bug-bedded motels to be recounted. I often lived off the grid, without electricity or modern plumbing, learning the secrets of keeping compost toilets odorless and rattlesnakes from nesting in outhouses.

So, it was with some trepidation that I moved back to Philadelphia and into an apartment on the 26th floor of a high rise. But when my mother died it seemed right to return and help my stepfather with the grieving process. I grazed Craigslist for a reasonable abode, astonished at how much rents had risen since I left in the 80's.. I thought it might do my stepfather good to keep busy and so sent him apartment hunting. I emailed him ads for rentals not unlike the dives I had lived in during my undergraduate days at Temple. He didn't like any of them. One night he called me, barely able to contain his excitement.

"I found the perfect place!" he said, elated. "And there's a grand piano in the lobby!" (My young son plays piano and my stepdad took this for a sign.)

When he told me it was on the 26th floor, I nearly fainted.

"I'm not sure that's the right place for us," I told him.

But he was insistent. There was no talking him out of it and I didn't have the heart to argue.

"Ok," I said "Take it."

That night I woke up at 3 a.m., panicking. I phone my stepfather.

"I think I have an elevator phobia," I told him.

" Go back to sleep," he said.

Stuck in Elevator.jpgBut I couldn't, so I Googled "elevator phobias" and found a plethora of helpful advice. What finally relaxed me was reading this list of 50 things to do on a elevator. I imagined making race car noises as passengers got on and off, or meowing occasionally, or passing out name tags and asking everyone to call me Admiral. I laughed myself back to sleep.

Several months later I awoke to a spectacular view of Philadelphia. It was exactly one week from my move-in day. I took Batdog for her morning walk. As the elevator passed the 19th floor it made a strange coughing noise and then dropped slowly. Then, with a mild bump, it stopped. The doors remained shut and there was no more movement. I pushed some buttons to no avail. I found the phone and rung the front desk. They told me they were contacting the maintenance man.

I took a deep breath and sat down. Batdog sniffed at the door, gave a quizzical look, and then with a thump of her tail she lay down next to me. We sat for a few moments, accessing our situation, admiring the thick brass doors, the high ceilings.

"We've lived in rooms smaller than this," I told her.

She wagged her tail in agreement. We stretched and I decided to meditate and wait for release. A man, alone in the next elevator, started kicking the thick brass doors. He kicked and kicked. A women in the elevator next to him began to whimper "Get me out of here. I have to get out of here." For the next hour, to the mantras of kicking and whimpering, I continued my meditation. Batdog took a nap. Occasionally I got reports from the maintenance man. He was having difficulty determining what floor we were on and no one seemed to have any idea how to get us out. The man in next elevator stopped kicking and began punching all the buttons. Somehow, in his fury, he managed to bring out the fire department.

"Are you all right in there?" The firemen boomed from outside the elevator. And before I could answer the doors opened - we were slightly above the level of the lobby-- and I stepped down onto the strong arms of one of Philadelphia's finest.

At this point in the story, as I related it to a dear friend back in Oregon, she piped in: "So was he cute?"

And I wish I could satisfy and give a "And they lived happily ever after" ending to this tale. But the truth is, I couldn't tell what he looked like under all that rubber he wore, Batdog gave way and drizzled on his boots. Still in shock, and somewhat embarrassed, we both ran out the lobby doors so she could complete her business.

In conclusion, I can say that I no longer fear elevators. Batdog on the other hand has developed a phobia of men in rubber boots.


Celyne Camen lives, in a high-rise of course, in the city's Fairmount section.





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