July-August 2017

What to Do When Trapped in a Tiny Turkish Hotel Elevator While Studying Abroad By Robbie Maakestad

Adult Essay Second Place Winner, Fairfax, Virginia

  1. Don’t panic.
  2. Press <?>.
  3. Laugh with your six friends when the doors remain closed. [You decided to cram seven Americans inside. This is what you deserve.]
  4. Press 1*. [Maybe it didn’t register.]
  5. Practice patience. Give the elevator time. Press 1* again.
  6. Realize you’re stuck. [At least you practiced a virtue.]
  7. Try to locate a “call” button. [Without any knowledge of Arabic, you cannot determine if one exists amid the handful of non-numerical buttons.]
  8. Push all buttons one by one. [None of them seems to do anything.]
  9. Jump up and down because it works in movies. [This is difficult as you crammed that seventh person in and you’re pressed against each other rather snugly.]
  10. Jump again, but this time, count out loud—one, two, three—to synchronize your jumping.
  11. Keep this up for several minutes. [Success has abandoned you, packed its clothes and drained the savings account.]
  12. Once everyone is sweating profusely, listen to your friend who’s begging to stop. “I never exercise,” he says, gasping for air. “I think I’m going to die.”
  13. Ponder that possibility and how awful it’d be to have a decomposing corpse inside a jungle-climate elevator packed with the six remaining Americans. [His body would remain upright, packed tightly between friends and elevator wall.]
  14. Pause to take a selfie, making your best “panic faces.” [Yours looks like you’re suffering from a flesh-eating bacterial infection, which is about how the elevator currently smells].
  15. Yell for everyone to “SHUT UP” when a voice crackles through a speaker.
  16. Realize that silence doesn’t help because the man on the other end only speaks Arabic.
  17. In English, explain that the elevator is stuck. [High school Spanish has proven worthless.]
  18. Listen as something further is said in Arabic.
  19. Wistfully say, “English?” into the in-wall microphone. Then repeat, “The elevator is stuck.” [Realize how American you are.]
  20. Listen as the man confers with another man who also only speaks Arabic.
  21. Say, “Help, Help!” into the speaker. [Maybe they will recognize that word.]
  22. Begin to hope as the disembodied voices chatter excitedly.
  23. After the speaker crackles off, pray that this word transcended your linguistic ineptitude.
  24. Wait until the door ratchets open, revealing the legs of two hotel desk workers. [The elevator is between floors.]
  25. Clamber out onto the upper level one after another as the front desk clerks laugh at how many of you were trapped within. [You are grateful for their enthusiasm, as you feel foolish.]
  26. Breathe clean air.
  27. Wipe the sweat from your forehead.
  28. Shake hands with your saviors after wiping said sweat onto your pants. Smile and thank them—“Shukran.” [The only Arabic word you know.]
  29. Wave as they climb into the stalled elevator and fiddle within an electrical box set behind a panel. 
  30. Pile six Americans into the other small elevator while one of you hits the stairs. Push 1*.