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Recently I promised readers big and small a story about getting trapped in the elevator in my building. As the elevator is just barely automatic, the outer door must be shut and the inner gate must be closed in order for the elevator to move. There’s a system of hooks and weights that permits the door to open when the elevator is at a particular floor.

A couple of years ago in the middle of the night, a friend called me in a panic, having left her keys at her work, now closed. I quickly made my apartment presentable, built her a nest in which to sleep, and told her to come on over. A very short night later, it was time for her to catch the bus back up to her pega (work in Chilean Spanish, sounds like a place where they hit you, which in her case anyway, does not seem to be the situation). It was early on a weekend, and I didn’t want my friend to wait for the bus alone, so there in the breaking dawn, into the elevator we got.

Whirr click, stop. Stop? No stopping! We were not yet on the first floor. In fact, we were just barely below the fifth floor, and the elevator was not budging. We pried, and jumped and pushed and exclaimed, but nothing would work. So we started ringing the alarm. Eventually a neighbor from the fifth floor came out and tried pulling pulling pulling the door open. But unless he was planning on breaking it, there was no way this would work, due to the system of hooks and whatnot mentioned earlier.

So we chatted with our would-be-savior through the door, and offered bits of advice. What if you pull like this, we said, describing the position of our hands. Or pull like that? But it was to no avail. Time kept moving inexorably forward, and my friend was becoming more and more likely to get to work late. I was just tired, and probably not a little cranky.

And still the neighbor tried. But then he disappeared. And when he came back, with no notice at all, a giant kitchen knife appeared in the crack between where we were and where the rest of the world was. A knife?! The man tried to rescue us with a knife. It didn’t work, and he didn’t manage to cut off anyone’s fingers, but by the way, if you are going to unexpectedly start jousting around, a little warning wouldn’t be bad.

Eventually the concierge arrived, did his magic concierge elevator karate, which involves a sharp blow with two fists to the top of the elevator door on the offending floor, and freed us, into the now-bright Santiago morning, whereupon my friend got on her bus and went back up to work.

Now the thing here, is not about getting trapped in an elevator, really. It’s about using the right tool for the job. As I later told my friend, if we’d been trapped in a cake, or some cheese, or even in a giant block of butter, a knife would have been a good way to try to get us out. But getting out of an elevator does not require a knife, it requires a twenty-something Peruvian guy with good elevator mojo and some really strong arms.