Wednesday, April 18, 2012


We are in a souvenir shop on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, capital of THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH!  A thunderstorm, the mandatory weather for Florida in August, has forced theme park goers into the stores, where Mickey t-shirts, toys, and tasty treats battle for the buyers' bottom dollar.

We enthusiastically scan the shelves, each of us determined to purchase a treasured keepsake from our gazillionth trip to Disney World.   My 14-year old daughter Melissa finds a shirt she loves, while my husband Bob chooses an eclectic brand of Mickey coffee.  I, on the other hand, carefully scrutinize stuffed dolls, buttons, magnets, picture frames,  board games, scrap books, sticker albums, candy, and pajamas, until I finally find a black t-shirt emblazoned with a golden Mickey that might, just might, fit my fickle figure.  

We make our way to the dressing room and in I go.  I pull the shirt over my head and sneak a peak in the mirror.  Success!  I can't wait to model my magical Mickey T for Bob and Melisssa!  

I unlock the door and turn the knob.  Nothing happens.  I try again.  Still nothing.

"The door won't open," I yell, as the all too familiar sensation of a quickening pulse and racing heartbeat threaten to overpower my senses.

Then, from outside the door, as my husband takes complete stock of the situation and anticipates my reaction to being stuck, I hear him utter two words that do not make me feel any better.  

"Oh Sh_ _!"

You see, Bob knows all will be well, and that I will not spend my life trapped inside a tiny dressing room in a souvenir shop in Disney World.   He also knows that he married a neurotic woman who suffers from claustrophobia and that, at that moment, said neurotic woman does believe she will be spending the rest of her life trapped inside a tiny dressing room in a souvenir shop in Disney World.

Bob and Melissa talk me through locking and unlocking and turning and pulling, and finally, the door swings open, and I break free from my horror-filled stay in Magic Kingdom prison!  (Alright, I admit, time spent in my "cell" amounted to less than five minutes...but still...)

I have never quite understood my aversion to small, enclosed spaces.  It all has to do with a feeling of being trapped and out of control.  Forget the possibility of ever having an MRI, I would need general anesthesia before allowing them to slide my body into that tiny tube.  If an elevator door takes more than five seconds to open after it has landed on its designated floor, I readily conclude that the door will remain closed forever, and I'll be left inside, gasping for my last few breaths of air as I lie alone and forgotten.  

At my last job, I worked on the third floor.  To my colleagues, I seemed to embrace fitness and exercise, thanks to my "healthy" habit of climbing the steps every day, several times a day.  I encouraged that illusion, lest they know that three flights of stairs were a welcome alternative to the elevator death box of doom.

The worst experience came during a cruise vacation to Mexico.   The ship came equipped with a terrific camp program for kids of all ages, and Melissa, then the tender age of five, couldn't wait to leave her parents behind to join in the fun!

At the end of a fun-filled day, Bob and I, along with at least 50 other guests, boarded an extremely large elevator to take us on the long journey from deck number 1 all the way to the camp on deck number 9,  where my child sat patiently waiting for her mommy and daddy to pick her up.  

As more and more of our fellow cruise-mates climbed into the elevator, I purposely stayed close to the front, an act most likely seen as rude by others, but life-preserving to me.  My husband Bob, fully aware of my neurosis, stuck by my side, determined to ease my anxiety during the long, upward ride towards freedom.  

Finally, when we were properly packed in like the proverbial can of sardines, the elevators doors glided shut, sealing our fate.  I pressed the button for number 9, yet nothing happened.  I pressed the buttons for 6, 7, and 8.  Still, nothing happened.  So then, in a very public panic noticed by all of the unfortunate people stuck inside with me,  I pressed the "door open" button, and then, something finally happened.  

The elevator began to shake, not the slight shaky movement that comes naturally when the car begins to ascend.  This shaking felt more like the side to side shaking typical of an earthquake.  We were not travelling upwards, we were just shaking, and shaking, and shaking.

Unable to control my rising sense of doom, I shouted, "WE'RE TRAPPED, GET ME OUT OF HERE!" and started pressing any and all buttons within reach.  Making matters worse, not only did I face being entombed with 50 strangers, but being trapped meant that I could not get to my baby.  For you see, even worse than being stuck in an elevator is the overwhelming fear that my child is alone or in danger, and try as I might, I cannot reach her.  Even though Melissa is now 14, I still have this fear, which rears its ugly head every so often in the form of a nightmare.

But this scene of horror did not exist in my dreams.  After what felt like several years,(in reality only a few minutes) the elevator doors magically parted, only to reveal we had not moved one inch.  We were still on deck 1.  

I quickly jumped out.  

"What are you doing?" shouted Bob.  "The camp is nine floors up, you have to get back on."

"I'll meet you up there," came my determined reply.  "I'm taking the stairs!"

And take the stairs I did.  All nine flights of them.

When I came to deck 9, panting and heaving, but grateful to be breathing, I met my exasperated husband waiting for me in front of the elevator.  We picked up Melissa and headed back to our cabin to dress for dinner.  Bob and Melissa climbed on board the elevator, and, you guessed it...I took the stairs!

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  1. I don't like being in small spaces either. I hate elevators the most and forget water slides that have tubes or tunnels. No thank you!

    1. Hi Kelly, yes, I would also need general anesthesia to tackle water slide tubes!!

  2. This is pretty funny. I was on an elevator just today, going up to the 34th floor and suddenly it stopped somewhere, in between floors. There were about 12 of us squished inside. It only stopped for a minute but funny how one minute can seem like eons. In other news, you remind me of a friend I have who's afraid of taking escalators, especially those going down. So she's always hunting for an elevator. In a department store, where they usually only have one--which can take forever, this can get pretty tiresome.

  3. I hate small enclosed places! I know it's unreasonable, but they always make me feel trapped. I had an MRI once...