Thursday, April 5, 2012

Let's Talk Phobias

...Specifically, let's talk my phobias.
Spiders? Snakes? Heights? Not entirely pleasant, but they really don't bother me much.
My all time biggest phobia is getting stuck in places. Specifically small places. But really anywhere without a way to escape. I don't like the thought of being stuck. With no way out.
Therefore, I'm not a big fan of airplanes, long tunnels, subways, rooms without windows, crowed places (exhibit A: Neyland Stadium on game days), trunks of cars, or elevators. Insert foreshadowing here.
They have a name for this. It's called Claustrophobia.
I'm not sure how I developed this fear. I don't remember ever being locked in a box as a small child. My parents are pretty normal so I don't think child abuse is the cause. I did get my head stuck in the railing of the stairs at my neighbor's house once. That was awful. And seems even worse now. Anyway, I don't know where this fear came from. But I have it.
So back to the elevators...
My friend and I park on the bottom floor of the parking garage and walk up five flights of stairs every day. Why? For exercise. And because I refuse to get on the elevator. (She is a very good friend).
Unfortunately she wasn't on the oh so wonderful spring break cruise with me though.
And because of that I faced my biggest phobia head on.

To begin with a cruise ship is a claustrophobic situation in itself.
How so? You're on a boat. In the middle (well not quite middle...) of the ocean. No way to escape that thing.
From there imagine that 2 of your closest (about to become much closer) buddies convince you and 17 more of your friends that the night is young and dancing is how all y'all should spend the next few hours. They're right. So all of you excitedly agree. So you all leaving salsa dancing and head to another place to keep movin' to the music. Adrenaline and pure joy are your best friends right now. It is the first night of spring break after all! You all hurry to the elevators. And this is where you pause. Because 1. you hate elevators and 2. there are a lot of people and this is a small elevator. But everyone encourages you to come on. And you don't know where to go if you don't follow them so you agree. Spoiler alert: You'll regret this decision greatly.
So here we are. 21 of us on a very tiny elevator. I'm already having a little bit of anxiety. But I'm squeezed in with so many of my friends so I'll be okay. Or so I think. The doors close and someone yells "grind on the person next to you." True life. Everyone laughs because there is not even enough room to breathe or move. Not to mention grind on someone! The laughter is cut short because we all notice far too obviously that the elevator only moved up about 4 inches then stopped.
Here is where I start to panic. I HATE ELEVATORS people. Fortunately, my friends were much more level headed (to begin with anyway). They ring the alarm. It dings. But that's all. Literally all that is happening is an alarm is ringing in our ever shrinking elevator room.
It's an mirrored elevator- you might think this is a good thing right? Makes it seem bigger. WRONG. They mirrors fogged up immediately. We were all so hot from dancing. Plus we were squeezed in so tightly that the body heat was unreal. Not only do the mirrors fog up, but the air gets unbelievable thick. This is increased for me because I started hyperventilating. Yes. I did. Way to hold it together, Chelc.
The boys go into "save the day" mode and attempt to pry open the doors with their hands. Shockingly it doesn't work. At all. But there's a "use in case of extreme emergency" door on the ceiling. Yes please. In my mind there is absolutely nothing more of an extreme emergence than this. So the guys try over and over to get that open. Absolutely no luck. Zero. Somewhere about this time someone prayed for us. Glad we have a God we can call out to in moments of extreme panic!
I'm already in full out panic mode, but by now others are quickly catching me. Well, not catching me, I was way too far gone. Crying, sweating, hyperventilating, shaking. I'd lost it. But others were really getting worried too. We stopped talking. I'm convinced the oxygen really was running out.
This is when I had the bright idea for someone to get out there phone and call someone, anyone. My dear friend Thomas came to save the day. He pulls out his phone and in the silence and despair of the elevator crew, with the alarm ringing constantly, we hear, "Mom? Hey. This probably is costing a ton of money but I'm still on the cruise and I'm stuck in an elevator with a lot of people." Later we laughed about this for a long time. But at the time I was beyond thankful that some other human actually knew we were stuck. Thomas ended up hanging up on his mom because one of the boys found the elevator phone. Finally. He talked to a foreign cruise worker who told him they knew we were stuck and they'd be there "soon." At least that's what he thought the guy said. Either way, we need to work on the definition of the word soon. Because it seemed like days before they actually got there. We ended up calling back again. And maybe they picked up on the shortness of breath and panic in our voices that time because shortly after call number 2 we heard voices a floor up telling us not to panic and they were going to get us out.
More tears. Then finally the elevator went down those 4 short inches and the doors opened and we were free. I don't think I've ever breathed that deeply in my life. Freedom. And more tears.
Needless to say, I hate elevators more than ever. This experience taught me that my claustrophobia is very real. As is possible death from being stuck in an elevator. I might be being a little dramatic, but I'm convinced we were mere minutes away from being on the front page of the Knox New Sentinel as the most random and tragic deaths of UT students on spring break.
But we survived. And I owe my personal survival to my best friend who instantly knew that she had to squeeze through the five feet of our friends between us to get to me because she knew I was going to be panicking. And a couple of the boys were incredibly kind to me. Although the things they were telling me were lies, they were so, so nice and did their absolute best to calm me down.
We were on the elevator for about 20 minutes (which is probably about how long it's taken you to read this post- I just really wanted to paint a complete picture for y'all). That is a long time to be stuck in more ways than one.  

Notice the hanging heads and looks of defeat. NO WAY OUT.

The fog. Steam. Sweat. Rolling down faces. Even the camera is foggy. Miserable.

Floor 5. We hate you.
Sorry this got so long so quickly. I guess I just still have a lot of emotions regarding this event. I could make so many parallels from this experience. But I'll save them. For now. Total YL move: maybe I'll use it in a talk ;)

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