The sound of sirens provides a constant backdrop to everything in the nation’s capitol.
Whether it’s fire engines and ambulances, Capitol, D.C. and Secret Service police, or motorcades, scarcely five minutes pass without the whine or bark of sirens.
The last one I really never heard because D.C. Rescue Co. No. 1 was coming for me.
I was stuck in an elevator on the 11th Floor of the Capital Hilton, not particularly in a hurry to go anywhere, no sense of claustrophobia. But there I was suspended high above Washington, four blocks up 16th Street from the White House.
I had gone to our room, adjacent to Elevator #2, to grab my wife, Melissa’s, purse while she printed out our boarding passes for our return flight to Portland. In retrospect my big mistake was walking into an elevator when the door was already open. The doors quickly shut behind me, I pressed “L” and unlike the two or three dozen previous times, nothing happened. I tried another button with the same result. Open Door, Shut Door, none of the buttons worked.
The Alarm bell worked, but no one responded to the cheerful door bell ring-ring. I heard voices outside, so I tapped heavily on the door hoping to be noticed — forgetting I was in Washington and avoidance is the usual response.
That left the final option, the Emergency Phone. I tried to open the red box, but realized after a few seconds it merely required pressing a button.
“Hello, may I help you?”
“I’m stuck in the elevator next to Room 1152 (my room)”
“Is there anyone else with you?”
“Are you OK?”
“Yes, I’m fine; I’m just stuck in the elevator.”
“We’ll get someone right away.”
I talked to a couple different people after that. My greater concern was to let my wife know where I was.
I later learned the call went out to the elevator company for assistance and then to D.C. Rescue No. 1.
I stretched a bit, but didn’t really want to plop down on the floor. I was in violation of Rule No. 1 in our house, always have reading material in event of being stuck in a waiting room, traffic or whatever. I was also without my iPhone, so there was no Tweeting or Facebook activity — a present-day reporter’s nightmare.
After 15 or 20 minutes from entering the elevator, the firefighters arrived and went to work.
“Sir, are you all right?”
“Yes, I’m fine; has anyone spoken to my wife?”
“She’s here with us.”
Firefighters from D.C. Rescue Co. No. 1
While there was no worry about life or limb, it still posed a challenge for the Rescue Co. No. 1 foursome. There’s a bank of five elevators, which I still consider highly efficient. Working in the shaft next to mine, two firefighters worked outside my door, filing and pounding. Two were dispatched to the 14th Floor, and were operating through an opening in the shaft.
“This is a piece of junk,” opined a firefighter. “We’re going to have to blow the doors.”
The scene from “Iron Man” where S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson told Pepper Potts to stand back while a small explosive briefly crossed my mind.
Firefighter parlance, I later learned, had no connection with my thinking.
About 40 minutes after I stepped into the elevator, the doors burst open as firefighters, a security guard and Melissa awaited my exit.
We posed for the obligatory picture, thanked the crew, they packed up and headed to the lobby. Just another stop for them, but a good story for me.
Firefighters filing and banging on elevator doors.