What Getting Stuck in an Elevator Teaches You
There are Lessons in Nearly Every Situation
I recently enjoyed a wonderful evening with some friends and family. We had a lovely dinner and then went to a show. We had purchased tickets for Hamilton years before the pandemic changed our lives, and were thrilled to finally be able to see it.
After the show, we walked blissfully back to our cars, still glowing with the excitement and contentment of a great night out. We had all parked in a parking garage that was only accessible by an elevator. We approached the elevator and were soon joined by several other people. As the doors to the elevator slowly opened, approximately twelve of us got in.
Lesson 1: Communication
We all pushed our respective parking garage levels, and continued our respective conversations. The elevator started to ascend. Suddenly, the elevator stopped, but the door did not open. My friend was next to the elevator controls and immediately hit the “open door” button. A few of us near the doors tried to nudge at the them, to no avail. We then hit the call button and reported to the person who answered that we were stuck in the elevator. He assured us that he was sending someone to help.
What we heard in that message was that someone who was capable of fixing the elevator was in the building and on their way. After a few minutes, when no one came, we called back and asked how long it would be. The person who answered said he was not sure, as he was unable to reach the mechanic. We asked a few more clarifying questions and determined that the mechanic who was “on his way” had not even yet been contacted, and we had no idea how far away from the building this person was.
Lesson 2: A Leader’s Attitude Can Change the Environment
There was no air conditioning in the elevator, and with that many people, it was very hot. Between the anxiety from learning that we were stuck in the elevator and the heat, one of the people from the other group began having a panic attack. We called the operator back and told him we had someone in distress, and to call 911. We were informed that it is against policy for them to call 911 and if we felt that was appropriate, we had to make the call ourselves. I attempted to call 911 from my phone, unsuccessfully. Thankfully, another person’s phone was able to get through.
At that point, my amazing friend Sondra (one of the strongest people I know) led us all in a standing yoga class with breathing exercises. It helped calm nerves in everyone almost immediately, and we all began to have some light conversation again. We even took a few selfies, trying desperately to lighten the mood. Even the person having the panic attack was able to relax with the breathing exercises and calm, light tone my friend used.
When the firefighters showed up, they worked diligently to get the door open. And soon, they were successful. Merely watching the doors open offered an incredible calming sensation. Unfortunately, it was short-lived. We soon discovered we were stuck in between floors. The firefighters were on the upper floor and determined they could not pull us up. They would have to close the doors to move the elevator to the lower floor.
Some of them stayed on the upper floor, and others took the tool they were using down to the lower floor. They then attempted to open the doors on the lower floor. This did not go as well. The firefighters began hitting the elevator forcefully to try to get the tool to work. One of them yelled with urgency to the team members that remained on the upper floor, “I can’t get it in. I cannot get the tool in.” The elevator was rocking back and forth, and the lights were flashing. It was pretty scary, and the anxiety levels were all back up to even higher than our pre-impromptu yoga class. I decided to close my eyes at that point, as it was all too much to process. The anxiety in the voices of the firemen, while we were rocking back and forth was overwhelming to us all. When they continued to yell the same thing, my friend said, “I think I’ve heard that before!” We all started laughing with that welcomed comic relief, and I remembered how important humor can be in stressful situations.
Ultimately, they got the door open and got us all off of the elevator.
Lesson 3: Be Grateful (and don’t forget about humor) … Always
When I got out and was finally able to get in my car to leave my wonderful evening (and yes, it was still wonderful – just with a twist), I felt incredibly grateful to be on my way home to my family. I was in a scary situation and I was ok. I wasn’t about to forget it. I also thought to myself, it was really hot in there, but I don’t stink!
Lessons learned from this experience –
- Life is short. Make sure every day is full of what you value most.
- You don’t have to be in a boardroom to learn valuable lessons … sometimes you’re in an elevator.
- Communication is key in any situation. Ensure you are understanding what you are hearing and that the other person understands what you are saying.
- When you are a leader, your anxiety or calmness multiplies when you communicate to others. Maintain an authentic calm demeaner, if possible, and you will see the effects in others.
- Remember gratitude (and humor) always.
- Pit Liquor natural deodorant works!
- Katherine Way dresses are incredibly breathable and work well when you are stuck in an elevator!
As always, Barker Associates is here for any CFO services you may need (and is also happy to impart some words of wisdom from time to time!). If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.