Going up? Not this stranded vacationer.

Published March 14, 2024

By Celia Rivenbark

Our staycation destination just 45 minutes from home had been much anticipated: a beautiful oceanfront townhouse deeply discounted because it was February.

Our party of six arrived with three carloads of food, adult beverages and multiple pairs of yoga pants, happily committed to not leaving the property for three days. A 75-inch screen would keep us up to date on crucial college basketball games. What could go wrong?

Did I mention the house also had an elevator? No? Well, it did.

Did I also mention I had to return home unexpectedly because one member of the party whose name begins with “Duh” and ends with “hubby” forgot to pack his C-pap machine?

No biggie. I volunteered to retrieve it because I had also forgotten a couple of things myself. None that involved my breathing stopping hundreds of times during the night but, yeah, I think I needed some lemon pepper.

I drove home, packed up the C-pap, grabbed a few spices and headed back to the beach. No biggie.

To be clear, I’m still able to skip up three flights of stairs, bless God, but why would I do that when there’s a perfectly good elevator right there? Sure, it looked a little funky and had warnings and instructions everywhere but that’s for dummies.

I gleefully stepped in and pressed “3.” After a few seconds, it lurched to a stop. I could hear my friends laughing and talking on the other side. Soon Duh and his C-pap would be happily reunited, and I would be the hero.

Fun fact: A home elevator is apparently different from a department store elevator. There are two doors to open: One is like an accordian curtain and the other is a normal door you use to enter the room.

I pushed the curtain to the right and turned the knob.

Oh, sweet Lord in heaven.

I was between floors.


I frantically called for my friends, but they couldn’t hear me. OK, breathe. Read the instructions! Here’s what Step 1 said: “If the elevator gets stuck between floors, first, DO NOT PANIC!

Too late! If you don’t want me to panic, write it in tiny print, OK?

I screamed until I was hoarse but that stupid 75-inch TV was drowning me out.

OK, breathe again. Wonder if I should put on Duh’s C-pap? I could picture the horrified faces once they found me, crumpled on the elevator floor. At first, they might not recognize me, thinking I was just some chronically asthmatic burglar.

I consulted Step 2: “Press the red button to alert others.”


Oh, OK. It’s right here. I pressed it. It made the same sound as a mouse peeing on cotton. Which is to say none at all.

I prepared to affix the C-pap and remembered, too late, it plugs in. PANICKING!!!!!

Step 3: Call XXXX Realty. Why? I don’t want to buy a house! I’m stuck in an elevator! Also, there was no phone number.

I screamed louder and literally heard Duh ask, “Did y’all hear that? It sounds like somebody screaming…Wait. It knows my name!...”

OK, first of all…it???

My friends were going to rescue me! Praise Jesus!! Did I just hear someone snarkily ask why I took the elevator for just three floors? Someone else went to take a shower. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?????

Longish story short: I was trapped between floors WITH NOTHING TO EAT OR DRINK for nearly four minutes. Someone in our party had pressed a bunch of buttons, utterly confusing the elevator and it began to move again just as suddenly as it had stopped. All was well.

I tried to recount the horror but was met with allegations of “drama queen” and “diva” and “person who can’t walk up three flights of stairs.”

I hate them all.

Celia Rivenbark is a columnist and NYT-bestselling author. Write to her at celiarivenbark@gmail.com.