Fridays were always busy at Acme, but no one expected how this one would end. Especially not Stan Hoyt, or as he was known around Acme, "Stan the Man." He came back from a late lunch because he let the rest of the team go before him.
"How are coming with those reports, Sheryl? Think we can have done by end of the day?" He asked the administrative assistant he shared with the rest of the sales team.
"Sure thing, Mr. Hoyt," she replied, "thanks for completing them before you left." That's just the kind of guy he was, always looking out for others but still seemed to get his stuff done as well. Stan got along with everyone, that's what made him such a great salesperson.
He held that title for the last 12 years. Acme was one of those large corporations that diversified into all sorts of widgets, products, and services. Stan worked at the world headquarters. He'd been here for the last 5years.
The building was massive, over 50 stories tall. This proved to be the hardest part of Stan's job. He wasn't used to being cooped up inside all day. He enjoyed being in front of customers, not dealing with department heads, stockholders, supply chain managers, and the hardest was the maintenance team.
This was quite an adjustment for Stan, but he was working with it all. Waiting in long lines for parking and the elevator. That was the worst. He never really felt comfortable being bunched up together in a tiny box going all that way up. The long trips up to the 42nd floor to the sales offices were exhausting and tedious. That's why the daily briefings about the maintenance of the building always unnerved him.
Five o'clock came too fast. Stan always thought was amazing how the week seemed so long on Monday. And the day seemed to drag until Friday afternoon. Then there was never enough time to get it all done before 5 pm. And with this tough schedule, he would have to stay over for a bit. He finally cleared his desk, jotted down his plan for Monday. He always thought it was a good idea to spend the last few tasks on Friday preparing for the next week. This way he could enjoy his weekend. And he had big plans for this weekend!
Being a moderately successful bachelor in this town made him pretty popular. He had his pick of any number of attractive women whom he was politely stringing along with the idea of marriage. But hey, he was only 38, he still had plenty of time. So tonight, would be a regular evening with his buddies. They would hit the hot spots, enjoy some drinks and dancing, and prepare for the big game this weekend.
Stan was not into sports, but it made for great conversation with his clients and buddies. He could speak their language and they accepted him. That's another reason he was so successful. He could blend in with just about any crowd, except for this one. "Hold the elevator," he called out as he headed down the hall. Too late, the doors closed on him.
He patiently waited for the elevator to make its return trip to him. This took forever. He texted a few of his buddies, letting them know he would meet them later since he was behind schedule. Still no elevator. He noticed he was the last one on the floor. He didn't he was that late, but come Friday, people are running out of there.
Stan saw the indicator showing the elevator was finally starting its ascent toward him again...Finally! He turned and looked out the window at the evening sky. It was Fall. Not his favorite time of the year, it always seemed to be pointing towards death. The cooler temperatures, the leaves changing all proving the lazy days of summer were gone.
His father once told him that age 40 was like that season. The beginning of the end. His carefree twenties were coming to an end, so he needed to establish himself. That's why he took the corporate job. This was stability, this was progress, this was his future. It would carry him through the winter of life and have him set to enjoy the summer of carefree life once again in retirement...in about 30 years!
Don't know why he thought of that now. Probably because this elevator was taking so long! His dad had been dead for 3 years now. His mom was well taken care of and he was sure to check on her at least every other day. That also was on this weekend's agenda. She wanted him to stop by for lunch on Sunday and he knew what that meant. One of her friends no doubt had a daughter, niece, or goddaughter who they were sure was a perfect fit for him.
Seems everyone wanted to plan his life for him. He was content with what he was doing right now...well not waiting for this blasted elevator. Ah, here it is! The doors opened slowly, jerkily. Stan recalled the update from the staff meeting that the elevators would be serviced over the weekend. There were details that he zoned out on, the age of the building, the increasing workload due to the consolidating of the smaller offices being moved to this location...blah, blah, blah. He often zoned out once the sales and profits portion was over.
Here was Stan's blessing and curse. He was an excellent salesperson because he knew how to get into his customer's heads. He could translate features into benefits easily to help people see what was in it for them. However, if there was no sale to be made, he often lost interest. That often led to overlooking important factors. It may have made a difference today.
He knew something wasn't right because the elevator floor was not level. It's like it stopped too soon so Stan had to step down into the elevator car. "Maybe I should take the stairs," he thought. Then he remembered he was 42 stories up and decided to take his chances.
He pressed the "LOBBY" button and the doors closed. He felt a slight feeling of claustrophobia, but he let it pass. On the 40th floor, the elevator stopped, and the doors opened. There was no one there. The elevator lurched and started its downward trip again. There was a stop at the 36th floor, again for no reason. So, Stan was surprised when the doors opened on the 35th and there was a man standing there.
The man entered and they nodded to each other. We all know the unspoken rule of elevator etiquette. Step inside, briefly acknowledge other passengers, turn, and face the door, and then proceed to ignore the other person until the doors open again. Today was not a normal day.
The elevator lurched again. Stan felt compelled to break the silence, "It's been doing this the whole trip," Stan said nervously.
"You telling me," the other man said gruffly. "That's why I'm here so late. Should've been gone by 2 pm. The wife's gonna be smoking. These old cars really need a complete overhaul."
Stan continued the conversation, "So you're in the maintenance department?" He asked this trying to hide the distaste in his voice. It's not that he didn't like maintenance people, he just didn't have much use for them. As a salesperson, he never really focused on the aftermarket issues, such as maintenance.
"Yeah, I'm the maintenance guy. Don't worry, we should have it fixed by Monday. We got a crew coming in over the weekend. Gonna grease up all the cables and adjust the pulleys so we can get a few more years outta this old lady." The squat little man said. Stan seemed to notice him for the first time. Maintenance people were always milling around the building, changing light bulbs, adjusting partitions, etc. Stan had become used to ignoring the busy little bees as they moved around while busy was being done by the sales and marketing team. He'd called them various times when there was a problem in the old building.
He only thought of them when he needed them. Which was often in such an old building. In fact, this rough elevator ride illustrated Stan's problem with maintenance. Why hadn't the company just replaced the elevator rather than trying to save money and keep them running?
The two men looked at each other when the elevator came to an abrupt stop between the 22nd and 23rd floor. "It should start back up, it did this couple of times earlier today," the maintenance man said
Stan couldn't contain himself. "It did it earlier today?" He exclaimed, "Why wasn't fixed then?" He asked.
"And get billed for an extra trip charge? They're coming tomorrow," the maintenance man said. "And besides, you office folks would've freaked out if you had to take the stairs to go to the john or to get your precious Caffe Mocha or Vanilla Latte. Keep your pants on, it'll start again." It didn't.
After about 15 minutes of the maintenance man punching a series of buttons and fumbling in the service cabinet, it was time to call for help. And not a moment too soon. that earlier brief hint of claustrophobia in Stan's chest had grown into a near-full state of panic. He loosened his tie and used his stylish handkerchief to wipe beads of sweat from his forehead.
The maintenance man put a call into the elevator company's answering machine and was waiting for a callback. He noticed Stan's distress. "You ain't looking so good. You ok over there, buddy?" He asked.
"I don't do well in enclosed spaces," Stan began, "and I'm not your buddy." He finished irritably.
"I can tell you don't," the maintenance man said. "Lighten up, it will be ok pretty quick." It wasn't. Even after the callback, the maintenance man could not get the elevator to move and Stan was nearly pulling his hair out. "Just relax, buddy, these things take time!" The maintenance man tried to calm him.
"For the last time," Stan said, "my name is not 'Buddy!'" His nerves were shot.
"Alright, alright," the maintenance man said, "Sorry, I call everyone that. The Fire Dept is on the way. They'll get us out of here. We've got about 15-20 minutes of wait time. What is your name?" He asked.
"What?" Stan asked confusedly, "what did you say?"
"I asked your name," the maintenance man said. "I'm Joe. Figured as long as we're waiting here, might as well get to know each other a little better."
Stan's tension broke. It had nothing to do with the interest shown by the maintenance man, by "Joe." It was humor that broke the tension. His face lit up with a smile that cracked into laughter. "In the office, whenever there's a breakdown or something when we need to call maintenance, we always say 'there's probably some "Joe" down there who can fix it'"
Even Joe had to laugh at the coincidence. They shook hands and Stan introduced himself. For the hour or so, they shared stories. They talked about their childhoods, their futures, especially Stan's fear of commitment. They really got to know each other and it calmed Stan's nerves. He admitted, "You know, I think I always just kinda took you guys for granted. I didn't even know your name. I don't think I know any of your names, though I'm sure I've seen you before." He finished.
"Yeah, you've seen me before, Stan," Joe smiled up at him. "I was the guy who unstopped the executive toilet right before that big client showed up last month. The one your team signed that brought in about 25 grand revenue per quarter," he finished with a smile.
"You know that kind of detail about what goes on in the sales office?" Stan was amazed.
"Of course I do, Stan," Joe replied. It's all in the company newsletter. The same newsletter that talked about how we're progressively upgrading all the elevators so stuff like this won't happen no more." He referred to their predicament.
"I guess I didn't read that article," Stan replied sheepishly. "You bet I will next month."
They heard the banging from the top of the elevator car. The escape hatch opened and they saw the face of a fireman with ropes and equipment. They were saved! After they were lifted out and on solid ground, they gave each other a hearty handshake that morphed into a bear hug. Crazy how being cramped up in an elevator makes the time drag on for what seemed like days. And how it makes friends out of strangers. After all, they had shared, they felt more like brothers.
Stan asked Joe if he wanted to join him and his buddies for drinks. Joe declined; he had a wife waiting at home with a nice dinner. And there's more than enough for a guest. Maybe they could continue talking about Stan's future. Stan texted his buddies and said he'd catch them next weekend. He was having dinner with family tonight.