I didn’t have a chance to tell you, but on a bit of a whim, John and I decided to head to Canada this weekend to see my Canadian family — my favorite aunts, who are 84 and 75, my cousin Cathy, and our newest member to our small family Julia, who just turned 4 months old. The beautiful cycle of life.
Did I mention that my cousin Cathy is a surgeon in Canada and that they live in the center of Toronto? Toronto is a lovely city, but as we drive in each time, it always seems to me that there are just too many high rise buildings in very small spaces. I know NYC has many high rises also, but they are not clustered together like they are in Toronto. Everything seems so very high too, higher than other cities.
Something else I haven’t shared with you before is that I’m not big on heights. I do what I have to, things like flying, hang gliding (kidding) and elevators, too. I prefer to be no higher than six floors when I have the choice. Well, my cousin has a lovely apartment on the … wait for it…. 20th floor! In her building, there are 48 floors and in the new building, a stone's throw away, there are 70 floors!
I love seeing my family but honestly I worry until we get there about being up that high and I hate being in the elevator for that entire time. John is always great because he knows to ask for a hotel room from the sixth floor down. He’s also great about escorting me up in the elevator to my aunt’s place. When he’s not with me, I know it sounds wimpy, but someone always comes down to bring me up — again to the 20th floor!
Well, as John and I were walking over to visit my aunts he suddenly had a work-related call. We were almost to their building and he said, “Honey, I have to go back to the hotel and work on this, I will catch up with you later." I thought about the darn elevator immediately, but work is work, and I thought to myself no worries my aunts will meet me in the lobby.
When I got to the lobby no one was there, remember we have a new beautiful baby in the family. No one was coming to meet me this time… instead my cousin sent me a text that said just take the elevator up to 2002. Be brave. Be brave. Be brave. I was screaming in my head! I went to the elevators, pushed the button and headed in. The darn thing was empty which I don’t like either. I thought about waiting, but I went with the be brave, be brave, still ringing in my head.
Right after I pushed the button, the elevator started to move and then stopped. Dear God I thought, what’s happening now? Well, the doors opened and a man walked in. Of course, my mind went right to he must be a murder or rapist, just my luck! I hate when that darn door closes! Within a couple seconds, my instincts told me he was OK.
I was nervous for many reasons now, so out of the blue, I said “Hi, I’m Sherry. What’s Your Name?” He looked pretty shocked, because let’s face it in big cities people are usually not that chatty and friendly. He answered back, a little hesitant, Frank.
Then Frank said he would be getting off on the fourth floor but to just continue on to floor 20. I’m not sure where I got the courage, but next thing I knew I was telling Frank that I have a bit of a fear with elevators and heights, too.
He said something to me like, “Hey lady, that’s OK we all got something we are afraid of." I thought that was pretty cute. Next thing I knew I was asking Frank if he wouldn’t mind riding up to my floor with me and he did. He even helped me find my cousin's apartment.
Frank said, “See ya, Sherry," and I said "See ya Frank," and he headed back for the elevator.
Well, I have to say that once I was in the apartment and holding little Julia, it was the first time that I completely forgot about my fear of being up so high in that building. For hours I held Julia, played with her, gave her a bottle, and not once did I think about being up on the 20th floor.
Not once until the darn fire alarm went off.
Can you imagine! As soon as I heard the siren, I was up with the baby and ready to head for the door. Stairs here we come. When the alarm goes off the elevators stop working — on a side note who would want to take them anyway? My aunts and cousin told me “no worries,” this happens all the time. It’s probably the guy up on the 28th floor, who caused the alarm to go off three times last week.
What? I said, I’m looking around the room thinking, OK we all have to make it climbing down 20 floors with a baby and my aunt who is 84, my aunt who is 75 and my cousin too. They are all continuing to talk and completely ignoring the loud sound and voice coming over the intercom system from 20 floors below. The voice is telling us the fire department is on their way, and additional instructions will be coming. My cousin says, “We have time” again, “It’s probably up on the 28th floor.”
I’m thinking OK, about five minutes has already passed, fire moves horribly fast — every minute counts. Let’s get moving! I guess this often happens in the middle of the night, too. Just as I was about to at a minimum save Julia and make a dash for the door, the voice came back on and said everything was secure and that we did not need to evacuate. I’m still shaking, as I type this at 11:45 p.m. that night.
Jump now to the next day. As my cousin and I are about to get on the elevator on the 20th floor, the door opened. It appeared completely empty to us. Now I hope you can picture this — a little maybe 5-year boy with a backpack on came out of the front side of the elevator alone, very determined. He swept right past us and around the corner to his family’s condo. I was shocked and he was fast. He looked like a 4-foot man coming home from work. He didn’t look up, but boy was he moving. My cousin said, “Oh yes, his dad trained him at an even younger age to ride the elevator back and forth from pre-school.”
Sherry Farrell is Londonderry town clerk and a lifelong resident of New Hampshire.