Living in isolation, I find myself with time on my hands. There are all kinds of projects — like clearing my closets, the pantry, my office. While important, these tasks are what some may call “non-starters.” I settled on going through my office credenza, which is filled with old photographs.
Among the pictures were photos of a holiday taken long-ago in Capri, the idyllic island off the southern coast of Italy. As my mind traveled back in time, I recalled an incident that gave a whole new meaning to the term “isolation.”
I was sitting in the lounge of the hotel with my parents when I realized I’d left something in my room. I rushed off to retrieve it. Upon entering the elevator, I pushed the floor number and headed up. Suddenly there was a jolt, and the elevator stopped.
I pushed the floor number again. Nothing. Once again. Nothing. I pushed every floor number. Nothing. There was a little button with a bell on it. I pushed it. In the distance, I heard ringing, then NOTHING. Anxiety was building. I pushed the bell button again, determined to keep it ringing until I made contact with a human being.
From afar, I heard, “Pronto, pronto, Qual e il problema?”
Oh hell, my Italian is not all that good, and, with panic just around the corner, it’s not good at all. “Help!”
In very broken English (he was on the verge of hysteria, and his English was about as good as my Italian), he asked, “Where are you?”
Where did he think I was? “I’m in the elevator.”
“Si signorina, a che piano?”
“On what floor?”
“I don’t know. The elevator just stopped.”
“I need for you to open the door.”
There was more than one set of doors in the elevator. I went to one and pressed my hands against the door and attempted to drag it to an open position. This is not an easy thing to do when the lift isn’t functioning. Finally, the door was open. I faced a wall.
“What do you see?”
“A brick wall.”
“I need for you to open the other door.”
Again, drag and pull– another brick wall.
“What do you see?”
“Oh my God, I’m entombed!”
“It’s another wall!”
“Solo un momento.” And then there was “the sound of silence.”
I recalled a movie where an elevator crashed. Someone remarked, if the people hadn’t been standing, they might have survived, but their spinal columns were shattered when the elevator jolted to the bottom of the shaft.
“Signorina? I am going to pull you up.”
With that, using what I guess was some kind of pulley system, he tugged, then tugged again. After each tug, the lift would move upward then settle down with a jarring bump. As I fell to the floor in an effort to save my spinal column, I prayed. “Please, God, I don’t want to die in an elevator crash.”
Finally, I saw a bit of light, then more and then the head of the man pulling me up. I have no idea what he thought when he saw me lying on the floor. Perhaps he believed I fainted. A few more pulls and I was free!
Yes, there are different types of isolation — some dramatic, others seemingly never-ending. We all hope this time of seclusion draws to a close, sooner rather than later.