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Claustrophobia Attack

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April 28, 2008, 8:30 a.m., was my very first encounter with what I dreaded and still dread to encounter: being locked in a service elevator of an old building.


Yesterday started as usual. I had calls with my students in network English world tutors’ top talking branch. I had a chat with my Korean bosses and Filipino managers. I prepared for my contract signing in Chang Kai Shek College—my God, was I excited. Then all of a sudden, this whole elevator thing pissed me off.


If I had noticed anything, it would just be the elevator’s groans every now and then. Suddenly, it would not stop at the floor level I chose. When it stopped at the “ground floor” level, it was actually at the third level. It was crazy. So I tried again and for the nth time yesterday I wished I had not. It closed, locked me inside its belly, and zoomed up to the twenty-second floor of the pacific coast tower and went dead. The lights were on; I was thankful of that. But with or without lights, being locked up in an elevator for a “klostro” like me was being sucked into a hell-hole.


It was not nice.


I was trying hard not to be hysterical, but it was tough. I couldn’t stop myself from screaming my lungs out. I don’t know if anybody would do the same, but all I knew was I wanted to get out of the damned thing. I pushed the restart button. The ringer. The mechanics-know-what-buttons.


I desperately tried my phone. Well, it had signal. I called my boss but he could not hear me. I tried texting my mother but the signal went off—I had expected that. I tried to be calm, rationalizing, “Are you just going to let this fool eat you up? Man, you’re going to be eaten up by your fear. What, scream like a maniac? You are going to be hysterical because of an elevator, are you nuts? Are you sure you want this?” and all that. Well, for once, my sardonic self wasn’t able to calm me.


I sat at a corner of the elevator to regain my composure. I bit back my tears. I was running out of breath (or so I think) and crying wouldn’t help me. Funny, at that moment, I wasn’t thinking of elevator ghost stories (like what I am thinking whenever I am in a comfort room). I was focused on one thing, to come out breathing.


After five minutes or so (it seemed like an hour), I heard a voice, voice or voices, I wasn’t that sure. They were calling. I answered back, pounding my fists at the metal door. Well, they heard me and for goodness, I was thankful … no, grateful. I sat down again, calmer, just waiting. Then my mind went blank. I simply stared at the door like one gone mad—well I was that time. Finally, it opened. Well, more accurately, a maintenance man pried it open. He asked me how many minutes I was stuck. I replied I didn’t know exactly. Honestly, I don’t care to know how long I’ve been there. I just don’t want to be stuck again.


Up until the time I met my manager along the street, I was still shaking.


When I rode the LRT back and forth (because of my appointment), I couldn’t help thinking what I would do if the same would happen with the LRT.


And whenever I remember it, I inhale deeply like what I did back there. It’s like I’m still there.


Now I am quite sure I wasn’t able to face my fear back there. A while ago when I went to work, from the unit where I am staying (1101) to the unit where I am working (1904), I used the stairs. And I think I am going to use it as long as I work and live there, except of course if I have company to ride the darned thing. If that encounter did something to my claustrophobia, it worsened, not cured it.

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