Some environments trigger this more than others. For instance, being in a doctor's office makes me acutely aware of just which diseases I have NOT contracted, and makes me wonder whether I will be exposed to H1N1 from the oozing child in the next chair... so I end up tucking my nose into my magazine and covertly sending telepathic messages to the little snot machine** to take their leaking orifices over to the lovely little play corner. Being on an airplane makes me think about what jungle viruses the other passengers might be radiating into our shared air... so I end up burrowing into my blanket and breathing through it for the duration of my flight. Being in a vehicle - especially one of which I am not in control - makes me wonder if the driver has the capacity to poison me with germs through the air ducts under the guise of "turning up the heat to reach you all the way back there."
But the worst has to be the elevator.
Doctors' offices have windows that can be left open. Airplanes have doors that can be left open. Vehicles have both.
Elevators do not.
Doctors' offices, airplanes and vehicles can create a scenario of moving- with the appropriate allocation of open airway and stout breeze.
Elevators can not.
Sure, the doors open. For exactly 14 seconds (at least on my Friendly Local Elevator). That is NOT enough time for an air-exchange. That's enough time to cool down the air right inside the doorway, and then trap you inside for a 45-second-long ride of germ-tastic doom.
Well, it should be easy enough, right? Just avoid elevators.
I am one of only a handful of people who have a key to the Box Of Doom. Which means that, twice a day, I have to push the little button and wait for the disgustingly long descent, and then step inside to turn the key. Which, inevitably takes 18 seconds (two seconds longer than the breath I can hold when I totally forgot to take a deep, holdable breath before the elevator arrived and have to just gasp in what I can before the doors ding open). Most days I can step in, fumble for my keys, grab the right one and be en-route to the keyhole before I have to kick my foot in front of the door to keep it from closing me in (thereby at least feigning to my brain that there is breathable, un-germy air around should the need for it arise). I can then complete my task of turning on the elevator, escaping it and breathing deeply as I walk myself up the well ventilated stairs.
(Mind you, all of this is happening in a two-story building. The elevator is only for clients, of which we have very few right now because the company is in a "state of transition." So all of this work is pointless, and goes unrecognized until the one day I forget to turn on the elevator and someone has to walk up the stairs before a meeting ((heaven forbid)) and is forced to get some exercise, thereby totally winding them and ruining the meeting because they can't think for the breath they can't catch.)
Unfortunately, this was not the case today.
Today, I was just at the kicking-of-the-foot part when I heard a ding. And then a clanging bell. And then, all hell broke loose.
The ding was a call for the elevator. Easy enough. Once the key is engaged, it will rocket off on its upward trajectory, hurtling towards its destination at a staggering eight-inches-per-second-per-
second rate of acceleration. (Yep. Tested and true. It really is faster to climb the stairs.) But it will not rocket upwards before the key turns and the connection is completed and I can escape unscathed.
Most of the time.
Today, it was really on its game, and I got sucked into its trap.
COURSE OF EVENTS:
Sunny: <pushes button>
Elevator: Oh hai!
Sunny: Meep! Not ready!
<gasps quickly to avoid imminent germ-cloud>
<steps into elevator, fumbles keys, accidentally drops them>
<reaches to pick up keys while awkwardly kicking leg out to stall closing door>
Elevator: Oh! A game! I love games! I'll make loud crashy noise, too.
<dings as if being called>
Fire Alarm: What fun! A game! I can make noise, too!
<clangs and joins in the fun>
Sunny: <startled> Oh!
Elevator: Have you disembarked, HumanFriend?
<begins closing doors>
Sunny: No! NoNoNoNoNo!
<frantic kicking of leg>
Elevator: HumanFriend! You're still here! But I'm about to move! I will save you!! You will be safe!!
<closes doors more quickly>
Fire Alarm: I'll keep you company!
So... I was terrified. I was locked in a little box which appeared to be making decisions of its own volition. I was moving upwards on a trajectory I hadn't requested, towards the source of a noise which was startling the ever-loving earwax out of me**1, and I was fairly certain I was going to die.
By the time I reached the first floor, I was in Catastrophic Meltdown. I had run out of air in my lungs, so I had pulled my sweater up over my face and was breathing in through that and out through my right sleeve. My belongings - such as they were - were scattered about the floor, having been dropped in the hubbub. I was curled into the far corner of the elevator with my back pressed to the wall and what I'm sure was a look of terror plastered firmly on my face.
Which must have been a fantastic spectacle for the Fire Alarm Guy that greeted me on the first floor.
"Oh!" he said nonchalantly as the doors opened and he peered inside. "I wouldn'ta used the emergency key if I knew you were about."
** I love children. I really, really do. It's the parents who do nothing to stem the flow of viscous fluids that bother me. Really, honey, is it that hard to help him blow his nose? No, don't drug him, just employ a tissue.
**1 Loud noises in small spaces lead me down a short path to schizophrenia. I see angry faces in my head, my heart palpitates almost to the point of making me feel ill and my breath comes in these little raspy bursts that make me sound like a PugDog with chronic respiratory disease. So... fire alarm in elevator = Sunny the Wide Eyed Terror-Beast.