Chris Johnson

‘L’ isn’t for ‘lobby’; it’s for ‘Let me outta here!’

I don't have anything against elevators. Perhaps that's because I'm not claustrophobic. And because I kinda like the smooth jazz they often play in elevators, so long as it's not some Muzak version of "Stairway to Heaven" or "Tie a Yellow Ribbon".

Claustrophobia is just not one of those fears I have. Granted, I've requested to be cremated (after I'm dead, that is, so don't jump the gun on that), but that's not because I fear being trapped in a coffin or buried alive. I simply don't feel its right to take up space on Earth if you're not here anymore.

I don't mind tight spaces. I've literally seen walk-in closets that I thought would make a nice, hidden, tucked-away office. I was born a few days late because I was perfectly comfortable in the womb. My mother thought she was having labor pains, but actually I was merely hanging posters in there and making it feel even more like home. But you know how it is: Nine months of not paying rent and they kick your butt out!

So I don't get my wife's fear of elevators. She usually insists we take the stairs anytime we're in a building of less than 212 stories. This irks me because I have a fear of exercise and I might miss one of Zamfir, master of the pan flute's latest hits in the elevator.

Last weekend, I took Shellie on a tour of Columbus, showing her some of my favorite sights once again, including the Riverwalk, historic and beautiful Broadway, the new whitewater, ice cream at the general store and the vastly improved Oxbow Meadows Learning Center. But all she talks about is the elevator. And, the stuffed wild boar that made her scream at the entrance to Oxbow Meadows but mostly the elevator.

We were merely on the third floor of our hotel, so taking the stairs was an option until we tried it and found ourselves in the secret bowels of the hotel or Hogwarts or something. I'm not even sure how we found our way out. Rather than go through the maze to escape the hotel again, she reluctantly agreed to take the elevator down to the lobby and check out.

But while waiting for one of the two elevators to stop at the third floor and treat us to a ride and some Zamfir or Muzak Zepplin, we heard a "bam!" and then people yelling. Even my non-claustrophobic self began to wonder if we should take the elevator. And when we got to the lobby, we saw two men desperately trying to pry open the doors of the other elevator and save a pretty large crowd of elevator riders from a Muzak overdose.

"Oh my God!" Shellie yelled as she saw the worried faces between the doors. "See! See?! That's why I don't like elevators!"

But noticing that everyone was alive and well and not much shorter after a long plunge, it didn't phase me. I still have nothing against elevators. In fact, I'd be OK if they made elevators that worked horizontally and could go miles. I'd like to be able to get into an elevator and press "Vegas."

Although, on an elevator ride that far, I'd probably appreciate a little bit of Buffett music mixed in with the Muzak or at least a Muzak version of "Margaritaville."

Of course, with my luck, that elevator probably would get stuck with me in it and probably some place like Topeka instead of Vegas. Or worse, I'd be stuck with someone who ate a double-bean-burrito just before hopping on.

Chris Johnson is an independent correspondent. Follow him at