It was a typical day for Lottie. Wake up and get ready for work. Avoid the wandering eyes and hands on the subway. Decide between the potentially empty stairwell or the crowded elevator. Either way, there could be danger, but that is just life for Lottie.
Finally, make it to the office, dodge the nosy person from accounting. Avoid the water cooler at all costs. Everyone congregates there - talk and touch become unavoidable. By timing it just right, Lottie can slide into her office and have the door shut before her assistant is back from gathering the morning's mail.
No open door policy at this office. That could lead to small talk, and then people would touch things in her office, and they wouldn't leave. Better if they just emailed. When lunch rolled around, Lottie was afraid she forgot her thermos of tomato soup. If she had to leave the office during the day, she'd run into to someone. Then she'd have to talk, maybe go out to eat. Other people would touch her plate, her silverware. What if they wanted to go somewhere with salads? She might choke on a raisin or a piece of lettuce. Thankfully the soup turned up. She was able to drink her lunch—no choking or dropping food on herself today.
The rest of the workday passed. Lottie stayed in her office well past five. The timing was just as important as in the morning - leave too early, and someone may still be working. Leave too late, and she'd run into housekeeping and be on the night trains with the talkative bar crowd.
Disaster. The accounting team was meeting late with another office. So many greetings and handshakes and offers of lunch to turn down. What an awful end to the day. Lottie walks quickly to the elevator before the accountants can gather their things. Blessed silence on the way down. Lottie closes her eyes and just breathes for a moment. She tries to calm her racing heart, slow her breathing.
Wait. It's very silent. Lottie opens her eyes. It's dark. Why is it so dark? The emergency lights come on. The elevator is dimly lit, the panel dark, the doors closed tight. Trapped, just dangling in the elevator shaft.
Of all the luck. She picks up the emergency phone. Of course, there is no text option. She takes a shuddering breath and prepares herself to speak to another person. A voice comes over the line, "We are experiencing heavy call volume, please leave a message." Lottie sighs in relief and speaks calmly and clearly, "Hello, I am alone. The panel says this is elevator number 3 in the west shaft. I was coming down from the 42nd floor. Thank you so much!"
Lottie sits back and smiles as she is utterly alone for the first time since she left her house that morning. Empty elevators are actually quite serene. The distant shouting of the accounting team does disturb the peace just a bit. Perhaps she'll luck out, and they'll rescue that elevator first. A woman can dream.
Author's Note: This story was inspired by Fear from the Turkish Fairy Tales unit. In the original story a young man doesn't know fear and sets out to find it. He is faced with a variety of unusual situations - fighting a sea monster, hands rising from a grave, almost being strangled. None of these cause him fear. He is finally startled and briefly experiences fear when a bird flies out of a soup pot. I felt like turning the story around and having a character who was afraid or felt anxiety about just about everything in their day. People in the subway, crowded elevator, choking on a raisin, small talk at work. Only to be headed home, end up in what most people would consider a situation to actually fear and just be like "Actually, this is fantastic."
Story source: Forty-four Turkish Fairy Tales by Ignacz Kunos, with illustrations by Willy Pogany (1913).