Yesterday I was at a conference. A hotel in central London.
Part way through the day I headed for the ‘facilities’ (strange how we invent words to hide our embarrassment of a normal human function – I needed a pee), only to discover that it was being cleaned. I wandered around the ground floor looking for alternatives. A man dressed in a ‘hotel concierge’ style approached and I sought his guidance. He directed me to the reception area and the bank of lifts, suggesting I travelled to the first floor, where I could exit, turn left, left again and find the required room.
I headed off, conscious that I would soon be missing the start of the next break out session. Finding the lifts, I pressed the button and the lift on the right of four opened its door. I entered and pressed the button marked 1. The lift door closed and it surged into life; well, actually it dribbled into life, but I could sense movement. I stood reflecting on the conference so far.
The lift juddered to a halt.
The door didn’t open.
Panic flashed into my body. Surely the lift hadn’t broken down? I glanced at the panel seeking the alarm button. I’d seen them before, but never had cause to use one. Into my mind came the conversation I would need to have, ‘yes lift on the right’, ‘yes, between ground and first floor’…
Thoughts swam in an ever quickening whirlpool in my mind… ‘how long might I be here?’ ‘what would I miss?’, ‘did I have water in my bag?’…
Then I turned around.
Behind me was an open door and an expansive empty corridor.
The lift had doors on both sides.
I tutted to myself, gently chastising my stupidity, glancing around to ensure nobody had noticed my tardy lift exit, or worse still witnessed my elementary mistake. I felt so silly.
Of course I have been in a lift before with doors that open both ends. Tube stations, hospitals. Usually large lifts, never a small 6 person lift in a hotel though. Lift doors normally ‘ping’ or are noisy enough for your attention to be drawn.
I noticed how my thought stream had moved from the panic of entrapment, to masking my embarrassment, to rationalising and justifying my inability to spot an open side in a four foot by five foot space.
For a moment, only a moment, I had been trapped in my own mental construction – the lift and where its door should open.
Now I was trapped in a different mental construction – the need to hide and the need to make sense and justify.