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Trapped in the Elevator

Last month, I got stuck in an elevator. I remember the precise date as Friday, April 30, because that was the date of my appointment with a new doctor. There is nothing worse than having your long-time primary care physician abruptly close her private practice and integrate with a medical group located at a hospital. Then, shortly after that, she retires, abandoning her former patients, leaving us at the new facility without so much as a “See ya.”

Having lost “the best” doctor I ever had, I inherited a physician who I didn’t select and didn’t particularly like. And dissatisfied with the operations of the medical group in general, I located another doctor on my own and made an appointment. Pardon my digressive rant; I’m still upset about that forced transition and will revisit the topic another day. But now, I will return to the elevator episode.

The new doc’s office is on the 4th floor of a small, four-story medical building (not a hospital) with a single elevator. So far, I like him better than the other guy.

When my appointment ends, I summon the elevator, step inside, and push the button for the first floor after the doors close. The elevator could hold four people comfortably, six in a crunch, but I am pleased to be the lone rider. I watch the panel showing the floors as the car begins descending 3 – 2 – 1, and then step forward, waiting for the doors to open. Nothing happens. I press the “Open” button. Still, nothing happens. I press the open button again, then briefly press the red alarm button and wait. The thought of prying open the doors crosses my mind, but I know that I do not have the strength to do that, so I angrily slam my fist against them. “Open!” I command. “Ouch! Is anyone out there?” I shout.

The narrow hallway on the ground floor extends about 30 feet from the lobby door, past a single elevator and a stairwell. I remember this because upon entering the building, I noticed that the wall at the end of the hallway, opposite the entrance, has a beautiful landscape mural on it.

“Hello!” I holler. “I’m stuck in here. Is anyone there?”

Hearing no one, I scan the panel looking for an emergency phone or push-to-talk button. I don’t see either, so I push the alarm button again and listen. Not a sound other than my labored breathing. Surely, someone hears the darn alarm. I think.

I begin to feel panic rising like a tidal wave. My body alternates between cold sweat and hot flashes. Calm down. I tell myself. I start doing Pranayama, deep yoga breathing and even try to use humor to help me relax. I’m in a medical building; what better place to hyperventilate.

Anxiety soon overtakes my positive thinking, and I press the alarm button again, wait a few seconds, and then repeat the process. Now I’ve got big-time attitude. I lean on the button for several seconds like a determined telemarketer rings my phone. And then, I shout. “Someone get me out of here.”

The light above my head flickers. I bite my bottom lip and try to erase elevator scenes from horror movies and prank videos that flash in my mind like a PowerPoint presentation.

Has everyone left the building but Elvis? I wonder. Of course not, because most people would take the elevator down to the lobby, I reason. What if people are pushing the button for the elevator and wondering why it doesn’t come to their floor? Surely, someone hears the alarm. And then, my imagination takes over. I am lying on my side on the floor. Both feet are propped against the side of the car. I wedge my fingers into the space between the door panels and, while pushing with my feet, begin pulling the doors apart with all my might. I soon dismiss the crazy thought and look up to see if there is a camera in the car. I don’t see one, but I think if there is a camera, they will know that I’m trapped and send someone to get me out of here. Then, did I feel the elevator jerk?

The door opens about half an inch. I breathe a sigh of relief, stand in front of the doors and prepare to exit. But the doors don’t open any further. Moving forward, I lean my face close enough to the gap to see if I can spot anyone, but not so close that the doors will snag my nose and lips if they suddenly close. I don’t see a soul. Dare I place my fingers in the space and try to pull the doors open? Nah. What if my fingers get crushed? As I reach toward the alarm bell, the doors fling open, and I rush out of there like the devil is chasing me. While exiting the building, I pass a security officer entering the facility. He is accompanying a stooped-over elderly lady using a walker and shuffling along at a snail’s pace. That explains why he didn’t hear the alarm; I tell myself. He was outside.

That was the first, and hopefully the last time I get stuck in an elevator.

A couple of days ago, a friend I told about my incident said that he had the same misfortune. While my confinement had lasted about 8 minutes (it seemed much longer), he said that he was trapped for over an hour. He was working late that night. There was no one else in the 12-story office building. He tried everything he could think of to force open the doors or get the elevator moving before using the emergency telephone to summon help. Men don’t yield to defeat as quickly as some women. It’s the machismo factor.

He said that when the elevator began moving, it suddenly dropped two floors before stopping again. Then, he said, knowing that help was on the way, he sat down and waited. He was trapped for nearly 90 minutes before the building engineer and others arrived and freed him.

Had our experiences been reversed, I’d have been a basket case claustrophobic by the time help arrived.

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Reconciling a New Year, Old Resolutions, and Pet Peeves

Wow! A new year rising. Who would have thought after the last hellish four years that any of us would survive to see 2021? Many of us did. Sadly, numerous souls did not. They succumbed to various causes, including more than 300,000 deaths related to the COVID pandemic.

Enough about the dark side. I promised myself that my first blog post of the New Year would be upbeat so, let me get back on track.

First off, I wish good luck to those ambitious folks who are making a list of resolutions for the New Year. I don’t do it. For years, I tried, to no avail. Then, one year, I created what I determined would be my final list of New Year’s Resolutions. I wrote.

Number one. Win the Mega Millions lottery. Too farfetched. You have to play to win. I don’t play. I scratched out number one.

Number two. Find and marry an African Prince. What was I thinking? I’d rather be a queen than a princess. Scratch number two.

Number three. Nah. Too risqué. Scratch that one, too. (Oh, wouldn’t you like to know?) I balled up the page and threw it in the trash.

I could have stuck with traditional resolutions — eat better, exercise more, and swear less. They are run-of-the-mill but attainable. Instead, I got resourceful. I created a list of non-resolutions and combined it with my growing list of pet peeves (You know, those things that annoy you like an eyelid twitch.). At the end of each year, I evaluate my list of Peevelutions. (You are right. I made that word up. Peeves plus resolutions equal, you got it, peevelutions.) At each year’s end, I either applaud my successes or move a goal from a lower status to higher on the list.

Some of the Top 20 items below are carry-overs from previous years; others are works in progress.

In 2021, I will . . .

  1. Stop squeezing my butt into Victoria’s Secret undies and start wearing big girl drawers.
  2. Conceal my weight gain by wearing baggy clothes.
  3. Stop hoarding paper towels, toilet paper, and coffee in the storage locker.
  4. Enroll in a 12 step program for political junkies. The last four years took me to rock bottom.
  5. Learn another foreign language besides pig Latin.
  6. Stop fake-smiling during a Zoom meeting, even when it is as tedious as folding fitted sheets.
  7. Finish reading a book before starting another, instead of reading two or three books concurrently.
  8. Stop letting my audiobooks read me to sleep at night, forcing me, the next day, to rewind and figure out the point where I dozed off before I can resume listening.
  9. Stop procrastinating and work on finishing my book instead of playing online word games.
  10. Devote myself as enthusiastically to working-out at home as I did when I was going to the gym.
  11. Stop unfriending people on Facebook who get on my nerves; continue to ignore them instead.
  12. Stop grumbling when the person delivering my groceries arrives 30 minutes early while I am still in my jammies; better that I complain to him about being 30 minutes late. At least I will be presentable by then.
  13. Acknowledge that Smart Phones, Smart TVs, and other alleged smart devices are fallible and, when they malfunction, are dumb as soap.
  14. Have more tolerance for people who never contact me unless they want something, forcing me while cheerfully saying, “Oh, hello, there!” to think hypocritically, What do you want this time?
  15. Resist rolling my eyes when I hear corny phrases like, “wrap my head around it” and “it is what it is.” The first expression sounds like you are doing mental gymnastics, and the other one begs the sarcastic response, “And what if — what it is — isn’t?”
  16. Avoid reading a book before watching the corresponding movie; then I won’t gripe about what was omitted in the film.
  17. Avoid feeling pissed-off when someone does not reply to my email or text or acknowledge receipt of a gift I sent them. Who doesn’t know that it is fricking rude not to respond?
  18. Be more tolerant of people who sit down beside me in a communal place, like on a park bench or in a waiting room when I am enjoying some quiet time, and begin chatting with me like we are old friends. I’d rather they pretend that I am an insect repellant and bug off.
  19. When I am dining with someone who not only talks with their mouth full but keeps shoveling it in while talking, stop pretending that it’s okay and don’t resist the urge to ask him or her to please shut up and eat.
  20. Keep being the good-natured person I’ve always been and remember the words of William Arthur Ward, “A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.”

Happy New Year!

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Contemplating Normalcy

Today I should be happy. Since I wrote my last post, the orange man lost his job. It was the first time I’ve seen people after a presidential election rejoicing over the defeated incumbent by dancing in the streets. In addition to the national celebration, folks in places worldwide joined enlightened Americans in jubilation. After four years of what many of us considered purgatory, we went – as my cousin Anita cleverly expressed it – from “hell to hallelujah.”

In a couple of months – 62 days to be exact – let’s hope that things will return to normal. WAIT a minute! There is that word – normal. It’s a red flag pop up for me. I don’t like using the word, but sometimes it slips into my vocabulary surreptitiously. There is nothing normal about normal; even the definition is complicated. In my opinion, the word should be banned from the English language.

Speaking of opinion, I am reminded of a Washington Post article where esteemed author and National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates said, “The need to have an opinion on everything at every moment corrupts thinking.”

Coates may be right. However, I don’t have an opinion on everything (Surprised?), but I have plenty to say about normal. If the word surfaces in my mind while I’m composing something or slides off of my tongue during a conversation – my awareness screeches to a halt like tires on asphalt.

Normalcy is like beauty, it is in the eyes of the beholder. What some people consider normal, others do not. Opinions differ. Sometimes I want to climb up on the rooftop and scream, “Somebody tell me what is normal!” And someone is sure to point to my dark silhouette against the light blue sky and say, “That’s not normal behavior.” Do you see what I mean?

The concept of normalcy is complicated. We all have different ideas and viewpoints on what we consider normal.

Five will get you ten that if a news reporter randomly stopped adults on the street and asked them to define normal, even the most intelligent ones might rack their brain to come up with a sensible answer. Some might say that normal is an acceptance of societal and cultural standards defined by the general public. Others might say that normal means average and widely accepted. A smart-aleck (sometimes spelled ass) might say that “Normal is whatever I say it is.”

The smark-aleck’s answer may not be too far from the truth. We live in an anything-goes society where some people believe that normal is overrated; others will tell you that there is no such thing as normal.

Carolyn Gold Heilbrun, an American academic and author of numerous books, was said to have strong opinions on many things and was considered brilliant by those who knew her. Her friend Judith Resnik, a Yale Law professor, described Heilbrun as “a person who was inventive and energetic and gutsy.” Heilbrun, wife, and mother of three grown children, once said, “Normal is absolutely my least favorite word.” On October 9, 2003, the septuagenarian who had no known physical or mental ailments committed suicide. Do you think that what she did was normal?

I don’t know how many times I have heard people say things like, “Normal people don’t act like that.” “There is no such thing anymore as a normal day.” And here’s my favorite, when my doctor says to me that something is “normal for your age,” I bite my tongue to keep from telling him, “Dying will also be normal for my age at some point.”

Wry humor aside, just as many of us grown folks believe we have a handle on the old normal, a paradigm shift in the social order propels us into a so-called new norm.

I wish that we could all get on the same page and determine a precise definition of normal.

I would close this entry with a traditional greeting, “Have a good day.” But as sure as I do some cynic would ask, “How would you define a good day?” That would be easier for me than defining normalcy. But everything is relative.

 

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Soul-Searching with a Cup of Java

It’s overcast outside. Grey clouds are threatening a downpour at any moment. On autumn days like this one, I like to put on some easy-listening music, grab a cup of coffee and sit and think.

I call it quiet introspection.

People who know me say that I am transparent. I admit that I am also opinionated. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Holding my tongue not only belies who I am; it agitates me like an itch that gets worse the more I scratch it. There are some things – not many – that I will not speak openly about unless I am asked, and my answer may be brief but candid. Depending on the topic, my advice is if you are not prepared to hear the answer, then don’t ask the question. It’s a play on the axiom, “Be careful what you wish for; you just may get it.”

Someone else’s viewpoint about an issue is their opinion, and mine is mine. They may argue that my perspective is wrong, but I will not change my mind to appease them. By the same token, if someone disagrees with me, I won’t try to change their mind, but I will let them know that I feel differently.  Everyone has an opinion (though, but some folks would never admit to it). The best thing for strengthening an opinion is having reliable information to support your position. For instance, if I say that over half of the people in this country drink coffee every day, that is my opinion. If I say that a Reuters study shows that 64 percent drink it daily, I’ve backed up my opinion with data provided by a verifiable source.

I try to be open-minded to suspend judgment and to accept without condemnation things with which I don’t entirely agree. I am no more perfect than the next person, and I wouldn’t think of casting the first stone. But what I am not – is a hypocrite.

This nonconformist does not follow the herd. I will not pretend to believe that day is night, left is right, and what I perceive to be wrong is right just because society may dictate it or because everybody else thinks it’s okay. Nevertheless, my doctrine is simple – live and let live.

My mother was dutifully religious. I consider myself more spiritual than religious, but the disadvantage of being a child imbued with a strict religious upbringing is that it sticks with you through adulthood. Mother has been dead for six years; however, in my mind, I still hear her quoting Proverbs 22:6. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

I don’t know how many times I heard her say that when I was growing up.

Sometimes we deviate. That doesn’t mean that we forgot the lessons. God bestowed us with free will, and fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, we make a conscious choice to choose the other of the two roads in our path instead of the trail we were taught to follow.

Since the scriptures prophesize that we “all have sinned,” sometimes I think that trying to walk a righteous path is futile. If I could say that to mother now, she would immediately remind me that the Bible also says that each of us will be judged according to our deeds.

So, I reiterate that I will live and let live. But I refuse to be fake. Sometimes even when I go along to get along, I feel like a fraud. Anyone who wants me to accept them for who they are must, in turn, take me for who I am. Because we disagree doesn’t mean that we have to be nasty about it. It merely means that we have a different point of view.

Indian philosopher Krishnamurti said, “The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” I haven’t reached that peak. Maybe I never will. But I don’t worry about it, because I have plenty of company on the concourse level.

It takes an extraordinary person to look at something – anything – in a completely neutral manner. Can someone be open-minded and critical at the same time? Is it feasible to think that even the smartest person can observe something and not draw a conclusion? I wonder. Because someone doesn’t publicly express an opinion, but that doesn’t mean that he or she has not formed one?

There is nothing like relaxing to some easy-listening music, a cup of coffee, and quiet introspection – in my opinion.

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Reflecting on Being Too Tired to Laugh

My earbuds are in place, and I’m listening to Bobby Womack croon, “I’m looking for a love.”

Not me, Bobby. I’ve got love. I’m looking to laugh again. I want to rediscover humor in a country blanketed under a cloud of gloom.

Anxiety simmers everywhere. I rarely hear anyone laughing anymore. I’m not talking about a forced smile or a polite chuckle. I miss the shoulders jiggling, head thrown back, falling in the chair laughing. I haven’t laughed like that in a long time and rarely see anyone else doing it. But I hear a lot of people saying, “I’m tired.” Not tired like the exhaustion you feel after a long workday at the office. It’s mental fatigue. Enough-is-enough. Sick of the existing state of affairs tired.

My list of tired is long. I’m tired of hearing about social distancing and the coronavirus death toll. Tired too of sheltering in place because going outside means dodging unmasked people and avoiding crowds. I’m tired of anarchy and criminal politicians – rotting from the head down. I’m tired of reports of voter suppression. I am sick and tired of seeing numerous newscasts and amateur videos of black people getting beat down or killed by rogue cops. I am mentally exhausted from seeing unprovoked injustices against the same people for driving, walking, working, living – while black. I’m tired of reading incredible reports about black people found hanged in public places, and their death ruled a suicide. I’m tired of seeing non-violent protesters attacked by goon squads and racist hatemongers because the activists rightly believe that black lives matter.

I’m tired of being tired. I need to get my laugh on. Reset my funny bone.

I used to have a good sense of humor; don’t know when my funny side slipped away like a runaway bride. I woke up one day and realized that finding something to laugh about in a topsy-turvy society is difficult. Experts say that humor keeps us psychologically healthy, so I often remind myself of the words of Maya Angelou, “Continue to allow humor to lighten the burden of your tender heart.”

I want not to be tired. I want to laugh freely again. I want normalcy. To hell with the so-called new norm. I long for a return to normalcy as it existed half-century ago before people began questioning, “What is normal?” If half-a-century is a stretch, then I’ll settle for normalcy as it was before 2020, better still before 2016.

I know I am not alone. Every God-fearing person I know is as tired as I am of the status quo. We all want to feel untired. We want to relax and laugh again.

I believe that eventually, things will get better. Scientists will discover a vaccine for COVID-19, and November 3 could bring hope for a major overhaul in January 2021. That would surely give us something to laugh about.

I am a realistic optimist. I realize that a nightmare scenario could recur on Election Day. (God forbid!) So, I’ll wait until the final count is in, and refined people have reclaimed the building at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And then, to paraphrase a favorite hymn of mine, I won’t feel no ways tired, ’cause you’ll find me at Lafayette Square, aka BLM Plaza, laughing my ass off while doing a happy dance.

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