Earlier this week, one of the elevators in the 245 Lexington building broke down, trapping 300 students inside. It was only after a brave junior texted her friend to fill out a maintenance form that a search and rescue team was sent out. There was no lasting bodily harm; however, 42 Chobani yogurts were squashed and three conversations were had.
Engineers are still unsure exactly why the elevator stopped working; some suggest that it might have had something to do with the amount of humans that occupied the area.
“Three hundred is totally not that packed,” counters a passerby, Sarah Goldberg, herself a seasoned elevator rider, “taking the elevator is kind of like seminary; you know you gonna get really close to everyone, really fast…it probably [broke] because every single floor was pressed.”
It was at 8:55 am, only five minutes before the first 9 am class slot, when the rogue elevator stopped on the first floor, the fluorescent red arrow indicating that it would be descending to the basement floor to pick up students who were finishing their breakfast at the caf. The other two elevators were both at floors in the double digits, so those waiting decided to take the elevator down to guarantee themselves a space.
Once at the basement floor, the next crowd of students trudged in, but each time the elevator doors threatened to close, another two or three bravely stuck in a limb to open the doors in hopes of securing a ride to their next class, juggling half-filled coffee cups and stalwartly attempting to protect their NuGo bars from getting sqished. By the time the doors had finally closed, all buttons had been pressed, but the elevator did not budge.
“At first it was really quiet,” explains intrepid survivor, Chani Cohen, “then the elevator broke down and it was still pretty quiet. We were all just waiting.” The quiet lasted until one student, whose name she wishes to remain undisclosed, broke the silence and stated that “[we] pay the same tuition as Columbia, like, we should have working elevators.” Others followed suit with similar complaints until the small space began to run out of oxygen.
There were approximately 100 pre-med students within the confines of the elevator who had a biochem midterm the following period, so they rationed the remaining oxygen to go over Mintzer’s test bank questions one more time, using what very well may have been their final breaths.
After several minutes of listening to the many iterations of carbon structures, three students in the back began to panic. The resulting frenzy quickly spread throughout the rest of the elevator. “I wasn’t sure why everyone else was freaking out,” wonders the instigator of the tumult, Avital Weinberg. “I had just found out that a girl from my grade just got engaged, so obviously I was super happy for her, but there’s no way she told all those people before she told me.”
It was then that the elevator began to move along its regular path: first floor, basement, first floor, and so forth. “I only had to go to the second floor, but the door was open, so I just slipped in after I grabbed some coffee in the caf,” admitted student Shira Levy, smoothing out her pristine workout jacket. “I had no idea that the elevator would take a longer amount of time than the stairs.
Several survivors recounted that there had been one male professor in the elevator, forcing the three hundred student into the other half of the elevator’s standing space. He was not available for immediate questioning, but convulsed when the topic was later brought up. “I’ve seen some things,” he offered, “but that amount of simultaneous politeness and discomfort…never again.”