Monday, March 19, 2007

Why cones are at the Downing & Louisiana station

On my way to school one morning, I decided I was too lazy to take the stairs down to the light rail. I hopped on to the elevator, and pressed the button to go down. Things were fine until I was on the Light Rail floor. When the door was supposed to open, it didn't. It was jammed! The door seemed to make an effort to open. It strained against itself, popping and giving up over and over. I simply watched. There was little else to do.

I looked at the button panel to see if there was some sort of emergency telephone or intercom that could ring me through to someone important and helpful. My cell phone was left at home. I wondered if my cell would work inside the elevator anyway. Of course, either because of my increasing heart rate or because the button simply was not there, I was out of luck.

I pressed the "open door" button again, trying to keep my cool. By this time I was thinking that I was going to be late to my first class. I was also thinking about some experiment where monkeys continually pushed buttons for some effect, even after the wanted effect was long overdue. (No you will not get a banana. No, the door just isn't going to open for you! What are you thinking!?)

I began remembering that at least once or twice a week, I had seen a cone or some caution tape wrapped around the elevator. I suppose I thought since the blocking materials were not in place, it was fine and good to be lazy.

I thought about jamming pens in the elevator's crevice to attempt to pry the doors open. I knew that the effort would be futile, though, so I just twiddled my thumbs.Some minutes passed. It felt like twenty minutes or more, though I doubt it was quite so long. Despite my intention to be be calm, I began feeling panicked. I began yelling for some assistance, beating on the thick windows. No one on the outside heard the banging. No one heard the yelling. If they did, they didn't flinch. My head rumbled from the reverberation of the thick windows thrumming throughout the elevator chamber.

There was an emergency button on the button panel, which I pushed. The button made a weak alarm bell sound, but apparently it didn't alarm anyone. Usually alarm bells are so horrid they can be slotted right alongside nails scratching down or across a blackboard. This alarm was cartoonish in comparison of alarms signifying any other real danger. The morning crowd at the light rail station just stood there absolutely passive with their backs facing at me. They waited for their trains to work. None of them looked toward the elevator. None of them were curious about the bell. At this point, I began to get a little irate.

I told myself to breath. Anger and nervousness were not going to get me anywhere. Just as I told myself to do this, something really anticlimactic happened. The door finally opened. I hurried out of the elevator to wait under the bridge where I could catch a train to class. I vowed to call RTD later.

I decided that I would never be lazy again. It's a good thing too. Ever since I was caught in the elevator, I have seen workman by it, in it, over it and on either side of it, almost every day. If the workers were not there, then there were cones or tape.

Every once in awhile there is nothing to clue light rail folks that the elevator should be entered on an "at-your-own-risk" advisory. Maybe I will make a sign and tape it with duct tape on the metal for those who view the door from down stairs and from upstairs. Of course, I might be cuffed or given a citation for defacing public property.

***originally published 3/19/2007 on