Elevator Music

Each of them pushed the UP button, because they didn’t know if the others were going up. The doors opened. They entered. The doors closed. The four people pushed the buttons for the floors they wanted to go to. The elevator started going up. It stopped.

“What floor are we at?” said Sue.

Listen to Angela Verbrugge: Love for Connoisseurs

“No floor,” said Jim. “I think we are stuck between floors.”

“Push the emergency button.”

Jim pushed the button. Pushed it again.

“Hello,” said a cheerful voice. “What seems to be the problem?”

“Our elevator seems to be stuck between floors.”

“Umm. Well, we will investigate to see what the problem is.”

Pete said, “I am already five minutes late for my music lesson. How long will__”

“We can’t say how long until we find out what the problem is.”

Sue said, “I am supposed to meet my personal trainer at 2:00 in the fitness center. Can you tell him__”
“Just remain calm. I can’t say how long__”

“Has the power grid gone out? Is this a terrorist attack?”

“A terrorist__?”

“There is no terrorist attack. Just be calm. We will get your elevator going as soon as__”

“Can you rescue us through a trap door in the ceiling? Pull us up to a floor by harness and ropes?”

Marge had not spoken yet, and decided she should try calm the nerves of her young fellow passengers. “Let’s just be calm. Everyone take three deep breaths.”

The elevator passengers took three deep breaths.

“I have notified management, and we will get your elevator going very soon. Or if we can’t get it going soon, we will give you an estimate of how long it will take.”

Deep breathing continued for a few seconds.

“Well,” said Marge, “since we may be together for while, let’s get acquainted. I am Marge.”

Marge, Sue, Jim and Pete introduced themselves. They could think of nothing more to say for a moment.

“If we were in church,” said Sue, “we could say Peace be with you. But this is not a church, so I will just say, PLEASE GOD, GET US OUT OF HERE!”

“Perhaps we should say something about ourselves,” said Marge. “I am the minister at a Unitarian church. I often counsel people who are stressed. Is anyone particularly stressed about our situation?”

“Unitarian? What good are you? You don’t believe in God. Unitarians are atheists.”

“We are not atheists. Some of our members believe in God. Some don’t. But we all believe in doing good. We just don’t require our members to believe in God.”

“Well, if you don’t believe in God, it doesn’t help to pray to God, does it?

I am going to pray to God right now to save us from doom. Please, God, get me out of here. And rescue this atheist, too, and maybe she will become a believer.”

“Thanks for your help. But I don’t deny the existence of God. I think He might exist. Anyway, what do you do, Sue?

“I’m trying to make the Olympic team. 100 meter sprint. I pray to God that I will make the team. So it is really important to get my workout with my trainer today.”

“So we have an athlete, and a minister. Pete is carrying a clarinet case, so he must be a musician. And what do you do, Jim?”

“I am a greeting card writer.”

Pete laughed. “You’re kidding? Nobody writes greeting cards. Greeting cards are just pictures.”

“Well, have you noticed there are words on the cards with the pictures?

How do you suppose those words get there”

“I suppose the artist puts those on when he is drawing the picture.”

“Noooo. The writer writes those words, and then he tells the artist what kind of picture to draw.”

“A writer tells the artist whether to draw Santa Claus or a bunch of flowers?”

“Well, I write funny cards. The writers of not funny cards don’t think about what the picture would be. But for a funny card, it is important to draw the right kind of picture.”

The minister saw an opportunity to help them all relax some more. “How about a funny card to send to people who are stuck in an elevator? Can you write one for us?”

“Well,” said Jim, “it’s hard to come up with something on the spur of the moment. But here is one I wrote that relates to the recent discussion about God. I suggested a drawing of a short Christian Monk named Sherman on the Mount. And he was saying, “I had a long talk with God about you last night. He is still plenty steamed, but I think I got you off the hook.”

“I sent that one to my boyfriend,” said Sue.

The cheerful voice from the ceiling came back. “Hello there. We have found the problem…we think…and estimate that it will be approximately 30 minutes until our repair team can get here. Then they will__

“Thirty minutes to even get started?” said Pete.

“Omigod! said Sue. “I can’t take half an hour in here, and then it will be forever__”

“Please be calm. Would you like us to play some relaxing music for you?”

“NO! I will freak out and totally lose it if you hit me with easy listening mall music.”

Pete opened his clarinet case. “I could play some tunes on my clarinet. That way I can get some practice that I am missing, and we won’t need annoying mall music.”

“Good idea,” said Marge. “What can you play for us?”

“I will play a tune that I think is appropriate to our situation. After the first chorus, if anyone knows the words, you can sing while I accompany you. We hope to be rescued sooner rather than later, so my tune is ‘Just a Little While to Stay Here.’”

Pete played and after the first chorus Marge began to sing.

Just a little while to stay here
Just a little while to wait
Just a little while to linger
On the path that’s always straight
Just a little more hard trouble
In this lone and sinful state
Then we’ll enter Heaven’s portals
And go marching through the pearly gate

“So you think we are going to die?,” said Sue. “That’s really cheerful and optimistic.”

“I was being funny,” said Pete. “I hope we just stay in this elevator for a little while. And when I see the elevator door open, it will look like a pearly gate to me.”

Marge decided to encourage humor as good medicine for their situation.

“But in case we do die here, not that it is likely, but just to be on the safe side, can you play some more hymns? Some songs that will help get us into Heaven. Just in case there is a Heaven.

“I wrote some sympathy cards that people could send to our grieving friends and relatives…in case we die,” said Jim.

“I thought you wrote funny greeting cards?” said Pete.

“Well, when Hallmark first hired me, they wanted me to write all kinds of cards. One day my assignment was sympathy cards. So I wrote this one. “Now that the old curmudgeon is six feet under, when do you vultures split the plunder?”

Sue laughed. “And Hallmark printed that?”

“It was rejected. So I wrote another one. “Sorry your beloved is pushing up clover. When can I start coming over?”

“Did Hallmark fire you?”

“No. They transferred me to the funny card department where my talent was appreciated.”

“Well,” said Pete, “I don’t think we are going to die in this elevator. But music appropriate for a funeral was requested, so__”

Pete played “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.” After one chorus Marge began to sing.

Just a closer walk with thee
Grant it Jesus is my plea
Keep me walking close to thee
Let it be, dear lord, let it be
I am weak, but thou art strong
Jesus keep me from all wrong
I’ll be satisfied as long
as I can walk with thee

“So you know all the words,” said Sue. “Do Unitarians sing just like Christians even if you are not Christians?”

“Most of our members come from Christian churches. Protestants and Catholics. They like to sing some of the religious hymns. We sometimes have a band in addition to our organ.”

“Well, that is nice, but I have to move. I need my workout with my trainer. Pete, can you play something that I can run to?”

“You can’t run in here.”

“I will run in place.”

Pete played “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Marge, Sue and Jim sang.

Oh when the saints
Go marching in
When the saints go marching in
I want to be in that number
When the saints go marching in
Only Marge sang the second verse.
Oh when the stars
Refuse to shine
When the stars refuse shine
I want to be in that number
When the stars refuse to shine

“Oh, now I feel better!” Sue as she smiled and breathed heavily. “How about ‘Washington and Lee Swing.’ Do you know that one, Pete?”

“Did you go to Washington and Lee college?”

“Washington and Lee Swing was my high school fight song. I was a cheerleader. If you can play it, I’ll give you guys some cheering up.”

Pete played “Washington and Lee Swing.” During the first chorus Sue ran in place. Then Pete played the melody again, and Sue did some jumping, kicking, and arm waving. The others had to stand back against the walls while the Sue jumped and sang.

McKinley High fall in and march in line
We’re going to win again and that’s a sign
We will fight fight fight for victory
Our names will go down in McKinley history
We will fight fight fight in every game
And the result will always be the same
Above the rest you will always hear the name, cheer the name
Of McKinley High!

“You must have had some great teams,” said Marge.

“We lost every football game in my senior year. But our fight song was the best in the conference.”

“You shouldn’t be exercising so much,” said Jim. “You are sucking up all the oxygen in here. We might all suffocate.”

“This is not an airtight space,” said Marge. “I am sure we have enough oxygen to breathe until we are rescued. But we should remain calm and breathe deeply and slowly.”

Marge took three deep breaths.

“Is that some kind of Unitarian yogi? said Sue.

“I learned this from biofeedback relaxation therapy. I suppose it is similar to yoga or meditation.”

“Well, I’m not into Asian religions. They are too weird. I calm myself by working out.”

“Good news!” The voice from the ceiling was back. “The repair team has arrived. They may be able to move your elevator to the fourth floor in half an hour. Two hours at most.”

“Half an hour? Two hours? I’m claustrophobic. I can’t survive. I’m calling 911. This in an emergency.”

“You’re calling 911? said Jim. “The emergency is already being__”

“We need the police. The fire department. The National Guard. Somebody__”

“What can the firemen do? There isn’t any fire.”

“They could chop a hole in the roof. Then the National Guard could drop a basket from a helicopter.”

“Please calm down,” said the voice from the ceiling. “No one can do a better job of repair and rescue than our team which has all the knowledge and equipment needed for this situation.”

Marge jumped in again to help. “I have a suggestion. Why don’t we all lie down and take a nap? Pete, can you play a tune that might help us get to sleep?”

Sue lay down on the floor across the front of the elevator, using her backpack as a pillow. Pete, Marge, and Jim sat with with their backs against the back wall of the elevator. They tried to sleep, and one by one they managed to do that. They had been sleeping for perhaps half an hour, maybe a little longer, when Sue began to scream. She pounded her fists against the elevator wall. Everyone woke. Jim grabbed Sue and held her arms tightly.

“Hey! Hey! Don’t scream. We’re okay.”

“I’m going to die! I’m going to die!”

“No you’re not. No one is going to die. We’re going to be okay.”

“Keep holding her,” said Marge. “Don’t let her hurt herself.”

“Okay. Hug me. Hug me.”

“I’ll hug you. You won’t die.”

“Hug me, but don’t touch my boobs.”

“I won’t do that.”

“Because only my boyfriend gets to touch my boobs.”

“Of course.”

“And when he’s bad, he doesn’t get to touch them either.”

“Did you have a bad dream?”

“I was in cave and couldn’t get out. I knew I was going to die. Then I woke up, and I was still in a cave. This elevator. It seems like being trapped in a cave. I’m not afraid to die. But I don’t want to die now. Because I want to do so many things. I want to win an Olympic medal. I want to get married. Have kids. Go places and have adventures. I want to live to 100. Then someday when I am jogging in the park, I can just drop dead, and go to Heaven.”

“That would be a good life.”

“Yes. My specialty is the 100 meter sprint. But when I am working out in nice weather I like to run in the park. See the sky, and the trees. The squirrels. The birds.”

“I like that, too. Well, I don’t run, but I walk in the park and enjoy the scenery and the animals.”

“I know I’ll go to Heaven, because I believe in Heaven. You can’t get there unless you believe in it.”

Marge said, “I don’t think that is so.”

“What do you know? You don’t believe there is a Heaven.”

“I think there might be a Heaven. Some kind of life after this one.”

“I think I have been good enough to get into Heaven. I haven’t been a saint. But I have been better than a lot of people. Above average at least.”

“I think if there is a Heaven, everybody goes there no matter how good or bad they have been.”

“That wouldn’t be fair! Why be good if you get into Heaven anyway?”

“Because you will be the same person you are now. If you want to be happy in Heaven you need to be good and happy in this life. Bad people have unhappy lives, and they won’t be happy in Heaven until they shape up and start being good.”

“What the hell do you know about Heaven? You’ve never been there.”

“Nobody alive now has been there. So my thinking about Heaven is as good as anyone’s.”

“I suppose so.”

“And I think dogs and cats and squirrels and birds will be in Heaven, too. Heaven wouldn’t be a nice place without them.”

“Animals don’t have souls. They can’t get into Heaven.”

“Who told you animals don’t have souls?”

“The priest.”

“He doesn’t know. He hasn’t been there yet, has he?”

“Well….so you think animals have souls? Will there be mosquitoes in Heaven, too?”

“Yes, but I don’t think they will bite us.”

“Why wouldn’t they bite us?”

“Because mosquitoes only need blood for reproduction. They don’t reproduce in Heaven. They just fly around and have fun.”

“Okay, wise woman. We will all meet again in Heaven. And I am going there soon, because I just can’t take being stuck in this elevator.”

Marge whispered to Pete. He nodded, and began playing “The Old Rugged Cross.” After two bars, Pete started the tune again, and Marge began to sing.

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross
The emblem of suff’ring and shame
And I love that old cross where the Dearest and Best
For a world of lost sinners was slain
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it someday for a crown

Marge stopped singing while Pete played a solo. Improvising a bit on the melody. Then Marge resumed singing while Pete played softly.

Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world
Has a wondrous attraction for me
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it someday for a crown
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true
Its shame and reproach gladly bear
Then He’ll call me someday to my home far away
Where His glory forever I’ll share
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it someday for a crown

Sue closed her eyes, and slumped to the floor during the last chorus.

“Is she dead?” said Pete.

“Just sleeping. I hope,” said Jim. “Yes, she breathing.”

“Good news!” The voice from the ceiling. “We think we have fixed your elevator. Well, partly fixed. We think we can move it up to the garden on the roof. The door up there has already been pried open. You may move slowly. You will be able to get off in the roof garden, and walk down to other floors by the stairs.”

The elevator shuddered, and then began moving slowly upward. Sue woke up.

“We’re moving!” said Jim. We’re going up! We’re saved!”

“Are we going to Heaven?” said Sue.

“No, Only as far as the garden on the roof. You can get your Olympic medal, get married, have kids, and live to 100. And then you can go to Heaven.”

Pete began playing “Fifty Miles of Elbow Room.” Marge began to sing.

I’ve been a wearied of travelin’
I’ve been a wearied at home
There must be a place in this happy land
Where the tired of soul can go
See the way to the other side
It’s a wonderful place to be
There’ll be room to spare when we get up there
There’ll be room for you and for me
Oh the Jordan’s long and deep and wide
The skies are always blue
And on the left side, and on the right side
Fifty miles of elbow room

The elevator stopped. The doors were open. They all stepped out onto the roof of the building. Pete played another chorus of “Fifty Miles of Elbow Room,” and the others sang as they walked to the stairs, and down to the lower floors of the building.

“Have they freaked out?, said one of the elevator repairmen. “Do they think they have died and gone to Heaven?”

“Well, this rooftop garden is about as pretty as Heaven could be,” said his partner. “This is the happiest bunch of elevator prisoners I have ever rescued.”

The elevator adventure did not make the four people best friends. They did not get together for an anniversary celebration after a year. But they smiled and exchanged a few words whenever they happened to meet on the stairs in that building.

Dean Norman is a contributor to the Earlyjas Rag in Ohio. His writing and artwork has frequently appeared in The Syncopated Times.

Or look at our Subscription Options.