What Mel Did
What Mel Did - Fire brigade at NCC April 2017

In praise of groundhog days

Most weeks, we go through our days like the Groundhog Day movie. We wake up and do exactly the same thing we did the day before. Until the day this normal rhythm is interrupted.

Riding the elevator to the 4th floor at work is one of my groundhog day activities. Except Wednesday. Wednesday the lights went out and the elevator came to an abrupt spine-chilling stop.

Luckily, I am not prone to panic in distressing situations. Nevertheless, I stabbed the help button ‘enthusiastically’ to inform the maintenance people five of us were stuck in the south side elevator.

“Yes, we know, there has been a power cut in the building.”

“Excellent. Could you send someone to get us out, please?”

“Yes, we know, there has been a power cut in the building.”

“May I please have an ETA of when someone will come to get us out?”

“Yes, we know…”

“Please stop saying that.”

“Someone will come to assist as soon as possible.”

“Thank you. Could you tell me how long “as soon as possible” is?”


I gave it five minutes (five seconds) before stabbing the help intercom again.

“Helloooooo, it’s us… stuck in the elevator… south side.”

“Yes, we know…

[Deep breath.]

“ When is someone coming to help us?”

“In five minutes.”

“Oh…, okay. Thank you.”

That answer seemed suspiciously precise all of a sudden. There again, he probably had several difficult people caught in elevators whose groundhog day had been similarly interrupted.

Nothing to do but wait… and get to know the other four people in the elevator. After a round of introductions, perhaps as surreal as exchanging business cards with fellow passengers on the Titanic as it went down, we settled into our surprising situation.

Suddenly hungry, I started tucking into my banana and bottle of water as I watched a fellow captive strip off their clothes. The elevator was hotting up.

We weren’t quite at the stage of eating each other, when the young lad with us put his skinny fingers into the crevice of the elevator doors and prised them open. Thankfully, the elevator had stalled level with the second floor and not between floors.

Well done that man.

That was Wednesday.

Then on Friday, as I was losing a fight with some budget figures, there was a smell of burning rubber in our office building.

The wise amongst us, attested to it being nothing and carried on working.

Astonishingly certain burning rubber is not nothing, I put on my coat, collected my bag, threw my work laptop into a rucksack and waited for the alarm to sound.

Sometimes you don’t need a Columbo coat to know just how your week is going to go.

“Attention. Attention. Fire has been reported. Please make your way…”

I was through the door and down the stairs before my colleagues could shout behind me, “Hey, Mel, you’ve forgotten your banana.”

We often lament the predictability of this life, especially for those of us who like change and don’t fear it. There are days, however, when we need to rely on certain things staying the same every single day. Like elevators going up and down, up and down, up and down… and our place of work not burning down with us in it. Those are the sort of groundhog days I can live with.


  • I don’t think I’d have eaten or drunk in the elevator as what if you suddenly need the loo? And I agree that you want a certain amount of Groundhog Day. Once when I was young and restless I told a friend that sometimes I despair that nothing will ever change and my life will just continue same same same forever. She was a mother of young children and a neuro-psychologist in a rehab hospital. Her reply was, “Rachel, I pray that things will remain the same.” Now that I’m a mother and have seen more of life, I see that these were wise words. (Is that too heavy a comment for a stuck elevator story?)

    • Not too heavy at all. In fact, it did make me think of ‘What if…’ the rest of the day. And, yes, a colleague did point out the vagaries of a middle-aged bladder, so I’ll remember that for the next time I’m stuck in an elevator! 🙂