The Stairwell from Hell

Yesterday I was trapped in the stairwell of a downtown parking garage. True story. It was only about a ten minute ordeal, nevertheless there was a measurable rising tide of panic in my being. It was one of those situations that can make an adult feel like a defenceless child again. Not good.

This all started out in an absolutely standard behavioural format.  I parked the car, locked it and went through the nearest doorway into a stairwell. The instant the heavy metal door closed behind me I turned to notice that there was no knob on the inside. Nor, I discovered,  was there a single knob inside any of the other doors in this six story stairwell.

At the very bottom..the dark, dank street-level bottom where the air is invariably redolent with the smell of urine and chewing gum..was a huge sign warning me (in no uncertain terms) against opening that door in anything other than an extreme emergency. I wondered…does being trapped in a stairwell qualify as an extreme emergency?

The sign promised that if the seal of this bottom door was indeed broken ,alarms would ring and there  might be loud, penetrating sirens…the type you always hear in old World War II movies when they turn something like navy destroyer around.

So, intimidated by the sign, I walked back up the stairwell again..all six floors where I began to notice that considerable damage had been done to all these doors without knobs, undoubtedly by people who had also found themselves trapped. I looked for blood and bits of broken fingernails. I remembered the pit scene from Silence of the Lambs. My heart rate was accelerating.

Finally, I returned to the bottom and, because my options now seemed exhausted, basically kicked the emergency door open. I was ready for a prison break scenario…sweeping searchlights, guards in towers, perhaps a pack of dogs unleashed.

Nothing. No alarm, no bell, no navy whistles. Just the street and the passing world as we know it. I breathed a heady lungful of liberation.

Some of us are not cut out for life downtown.

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2 Responses to “The Stairwell from Hell”

  1. You have to wonder what the reason is for signs like that. Why are they trying to scare us? Control us?
    I think we’ve ALL been in that scenario, usually some other unsuspecting victim also opens the door and out you run, panting and gasping a warning.

    What is the point of a useless staircase?
    Anybody?

  2. I have been in this situation once before. It was a harrowing experience. That is the question, what is the point for these staircase and can’t use them.

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