Going Down (Post 12 of 15)

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4th Floor.

 Bartle Library

Bartle Library, Binghamton University, New York

 

Why hasn’t the university spent more money on Maintenance of Elevators?

 

I am sure, even though they are a state school, that the alumni have donated a substantial sum of money. I bet there is an endowment worth more than two billion dollars.

 

Are they under the same program that Cornell was – – – “Deferred Maintenance?”

 

That is a fucking horrible phrase that covers up the real concept of “Neglect of the Infrastructure.”

 

Worse yet, it is an oxymoron; Maintenance means to maintain something. Deferred means to not do something. So we have “Maintaining Not.” Such smart people at Cornell, yet so ignorant of their own utterances.

 

I hope Binghamton University does not mirror Cornell in that respect.

 

But what the hell difference does it make? I am hurtling towards my death – – – and here I am whining about finances.

 

Maybe if I would have paid tuition for the course being taught on the 15th floor I would not have been in this situation. Every penny counts – – – and I have just traded a few hundred dollars for my life. What an asshole I have been.

 

Maybe it wasn’t all about my being good or bad – – – maybe it was all about being an asshole.

 

When Saint Peter meets me at the gate he will say “Waldo, you were neither good nor evil; you were just an asshole. And for that I commit you to Purgatory for the remainder of infinity.”

 

Hey! Pete! I worked hard at being different – – – at being an asshole.

 

I was a beatnik in the late fifties, a free thinker in the sixties, a working stiff in the eighties, a shovel bum and delivery driver in the nineties, and a half-ass author after the millennial.

 

Yes, Pete, I will serve my time – – – for being an asshole – – – in Purgatory.

 

I should have written a philosophical treatise entitled; “Being and Assholeism.”

 

Only three floors to go – – – my fate is clear – – – let us not delay the process of my nothingness.

 

TOMORROW:  3th Floor

 

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Going Down (Post 11 of 15)

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5th Floor.

 Bartle Library

Bartle Library, Binghamton University, New York

 

Isn’t this the floor where I took that Philosophy, Interpretaion and Culture class?

 

Maybe that is the reason I am in this situation. Too much education about perversion.

 

If my God – – – or any God – – – is listening – – – then listen good. Maybe it didn’t make any difference about what I did in my youth. Maybe it doesn’t make any difference what my monthly bill at the Johnson City Liquor store amounts to. Maybe it doesn’t make any difference as to what I learned in “Philosophy, Interpretation and Culture.”

 

Maybe I would have been in this situation anyway. And all those bad deeds were never carved into the annals of Purgatory. So all those good deeds, donations and kind acts weren’t worth the powder to blow them to Hell either. Maybe Dorian Gray was not such a bad fellow after all. Maybe I wasted my time.

 

I wanted to write a little more edgy but I was worried about what people would think. What kind of an author was I – – – to worry about what people would think? A piss poor one; that’s what kind. No wonder I will never be in The Bartle. Maybe I should have finished that book on “The Management of Service”; that would have at least got me into the Science Library. Better than nothing I suppose.

 

Did Jesus commit suicide? If he was God and he didn’t save himself that sounds like suicide to me. So my bad acts didn’t even come close to suicide. So why am I in this situation? Will I come back to life? My question to my mother about “who was I before I was me” is starting to sound like a pretty good question.

 

But what will I be after this box of death hits the bottom of The Bartle? A mushy mess all heaped up in one big pile or a reborn king, or CEO, or dog, or chipmunk, or something that lives under a flat rock?

 

Oh shit! The fourth floor light just blinked.

 

TOMORROW:  4th Floor

 

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Going Down (Post 10 of 15)

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6th Floor.

 Bartle Library

Bartle Library, Binghamton University, New York

 

The university – – – I will sue it – – – if I ever get out of here alive.

 

The fucking lawyers will do it anyway. And the media will glean at least two days of great ratings from my death.

 

“Class action suit filed in behalf of students who fell to their death at Binghamton University.”

 

I bet Nancy Grace could drag this on for a good six months. I bet she will mention my name and ask “What the hell was a 77 year old male doing on an elevator with several young college women?”

 

Is that to be my fifteen minutes of fame? My death?

 

Or is it to be my fifteen minutes of shame? “Dirty old man dies with beautiful young co-eds.”

 

I study literature and write books hoping that someday I will be recognized as the great author that I am; but my being squashed to death with broken legs and spine, is what I will be remembered for?

 

Screw that!

 

Society is fickle.

 

My writing would have already been in The Bodleian at Oxford back in the 1600’s. Now I can’t even get it in The Bartle – – – whose fucking elevator is going to kill me in about five seconds.

 

TOMORROW:  5th Floor

 

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Going Down (Post 9 of 15)

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7th Floor.

 Bartle Library

Bartle Library, Binghamton University, New York

 

The engineering; possibly it will not fail to stop us.

                                                 

Do I place my hope in the engineers or in God? If I place it in the engineers and the brakes do not engage then God is really going to be pissed off at me.

 

Forget women – – – Hell hath no fury like a pissed off God.

 

Why is there no prayer to engineers; especially elevator engineers? This should have been considered and written in the annals long ago. “Our Elevator Engineer who art in the lab, well-educated be thy name, thy PhD come, it will be done on earth as it is in – – – oh crap! What am I doing? Is this how people become insane? Get ahold on yourself.

 

Why have You abandoned me?

 

I was good; I contributed to The Church, even the diocese, the veterans, the police athletic league. How about a little payback? It’s not too much to ask; is it?

 

OK, so I drink a little and screwed around a little much in my youth. It was not Sodom and Gomora. Cut me some slack here God – – – that is – – – if you really exist. You know I am starting to doubt you – – – don’t you? How powerful can you be if you allow me to have doubts. Surely you have the power to modify my thoughts – – – to make me a believer. Really! I mean it. If I believe and you save me from this horror I will proclaim you and not the elevator engineers. Besides, how silly I would look if I knelt before the “Idol of Otis.”

 

OK God. Now’s your chance to do your best work.

 

TOMORROW:  6th Floor

 

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Going Down (Post 8 of 15)

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8th Floor.

 Bartle Library

Bartle Library, Binghamton University, New York

 

I have reached a level of pure fear, profuse sweating and I hope not to soil my pants.

 

The screaming has reached a level I never knew was possible. There is pushing and shoving and hugging and crying and all things quite human. I detect the first odor of urine; surely it won’t be the last odor I experience. Hopefully it will be the odor of feces and not blood.

 

A chorus of “Our Father who art in heaven – – – seems to be gaining in membership, a multiplicity of “Ah Dios Mio!” are scattered here and there and then there is one lone “성모 마리아은 총—의 전체.”

 

I push the emergency button emblazoned with the icon of a bell. It rings but does nothing else. I continue slamming on it with my bare knuckles – – – but nothing occurs. We continue accelerating downward.

 

If there is a God he should appear now – – – or at least give us a sign.

 

Maybe the increased acceleration is a sign; but not the one we want. C’mon God! Give us something to hang onto. Hell, I would even be pleased with a few false prophets if they would show themselves.

 

Miracles have happened before. How about a simple miracle? How about the emergency braking system kicking in? I will tell everyone I meet that it was a miracle – – – honest, I will.

 

God, there are only seven more floors for you to do your work. Look! If I said I would proclaim a miracle don’t you think I would proclaim your Son a failure if you couldn’t find a way to stop this thing? That isn’t a threat. It is just the logic of you answering this prayer or not answering it. What would you expect from a human who is – – – all too human?

 

I beseech you; do the right thing.

 

Or is this the right thing? Do you want us dead? Did too many of the people in this elevator believe what the professor said? Are we now deemed as mental blasphemers and heretics?

 

What if there are three righteous people in this elevator? Will you really allow it to fall and not spare the lives of those righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the none-believers, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? What if there were just two righteous people?

 

I hear no answer. Deep down inside I hope that God is not really dead. Possibly he is just a little out of sorts today.

 

TOMORROW:  7th Floor

 

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Going Down (Post 7 of 15)

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9th Floor.

 Bartle Library

Bartle Library, Binghamton University, New York

 

The screams of the students are now being drowned out by the rush of air trying to escape from beneath the plummeting elevator.

 

The air is screaming to get into every crack and pore in the elevator cabin. I can feel the pressure on my ears. It is not painful, it is just present.

 

The good times, friends, fishing, hunting, poker games – – – they all return.

 

The rejoining of friends who have separated for a few hours on the Chateaugay River – – – and the fibs they tell each other.

 

The cold lunches eaten from a brown paper bag in the woods, the hot coffee steaming in the plastic cup that doubled as a lid for the Thermos bottle.

 

The owl who sat in the branches watching you as you watched him. Who would blink first?

 

That brown bear who flew right past you – – – his hind legs between and in front of his fore legs as he scrambled for safety.

 

The chickadee that leaped from branch to twig and finally sat on the end of your gun – – – as if to say “We are both interesting to watch and both too kind to hurt each other – – – aren’t we?”

 

The old log that you used for a thinking spot on those fall days when you escaped from work – – – to think about work – – – that log which held so many solutions and answers.

 

The oak leaf that fluttered slowly from somewhere up high, and landed somewhere down below; that leaf who told you that your thinking was done and now it was time to go home to you family.

 

The couples, family friends, who joined together for good times – – – good poker games where laughter and teasing formed an unbreakable bond between people who were each quite different, who cooked their suppers together over charcoal and ate together – – – reinforcing those bonds.

 

TOMORROW:  8th Floor

 

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Going Down (Post 6 of 15)

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10th Floor.

 Bartle Library

Bartle Library, Binghamton University, New York

 

I can no longer look the students in the face. How can I? My own fears will make them more fearful. It is better that I close my eyes. The screaming has increased. It is now at the decibel level of the factory I once worked in.

 

What have I accomplished?

 

I have produced progeny.

 

I have, hopefully, added just a bit to the level of humanity.

 

I have been productive most of my life; despite a thirst for the spirits.

 

I worked at menial and meaningful jobs; without embarrassment.

 

I have both sown and reaped the fruits of education.

 

I have replaced the apparition of darkness with courage; even when danger lurked.

 

I have rolled the dice and won – – – and lost – – – and pray that I have taken Kipling’s advice “and not breathed a word of my losses.”

 

And yes Rudyard; “I have heard my words twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.”

 

But what difference does it make at this moment? Listen to yourself! “What difference does it make?” you ask. You are starting to sound like someone that you would despise.

 

There are too many good things to think of. Spare me the despicable thoughts.

 

TOMORROW:  9th Floor

 

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Going Down (Post 5 of 15)

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11th Floor.

 Bartle Library

Bartle Library, Binghamton University, New York

 

The elevator is definitely accelerating.

 

Could the emergency braking system hold up under such pressure even if it did kick in? It must kick in. It must hold up. They surely have tested the brakes under all circumstances. E = Mc2. The energy required to stop the elevator is equal to the mass of the elevator and its occupants times the square of the acceleration. Surely the elevator designers took that into consideration.

Didn’t they?

 

Where the hell did that thought come from?

 

Family memories rush into my mind. Somehow it displaces the fear. Family memories are likely to do that you know; they displace fear. We humans are so strange.

 

The look on my mother’s face – – – when I asked her “Who was I before I was me?”

The memory of that look remains, like the smoldering tattoo of a branding iron on livestock. What would make her recoil from such an innocent question?

 

There is the birth of my first grandson. The mother looks tired but cheerful. The father looks bewildered but proud. I cannot see the looks on the grandparent’s faces.

 

People, normally, cannot observe themselves.

 

Suddenly another strange memory enters my mind. It is the 4 AM breakfast at Denny’s after we leave the birthing hospital. There are a group of students sitting nearby. The language is atrocious. I hope the manager is nearby and he invokes his power.

He does not.

 

Where does such a thought come from in these dire circumstances of mine? The elapsed time between floors is growing narrower and narrower with each floor. I should think more serious thoughts.

 

The sons have reached the age where they are self-sufficient. They have done quite well for themselves; not overly comfortable yet able to pull their weight plus some of the weight of their offspring.

 

The hunting and fishing trips – – – what good times we had. Tired at the end of the day but not too tired to tease each other about missteps – – – real, invented or manufactured – – – supposed missteps that had occurred during the day in the woods or on the stream.

 

The wife and I have separated; not due to differences but due to Alzheimer’s.

We have lived together, yet separate in our thoughts, for eight years. Then it came time for her to get professional care. How horrible it is to put your love of fifty-three years into a “home.”

 

It is just another nice name for an “institution.”

 

TOMORROW:  10th Floor

 

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Going Down (Post 4 of 15)

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12th Floor.

 Bartle Library

Bartle Library, Binghamton University, New York

 

No – – – this is not normal. The elevator is picking up speed.

 

I internally hope that someone on a lower floor has pushed a button. If that is so, then the elevator will slowly decelerate until it stops on that floor.

 

If so, do I get off the elevator and walk down the remaining flights of stairs? Or do I stay on the elevator to save face with the students. They would surely recognize my fear and think me a hypocrite if I got off. I had just reassured them, by my calm demeanor, that there was nothing wrong with the elevator. So how could I now exit if the elevator stopped on a middle floor? I would surely look like a fool to them. Maybe I could say “Oh, this is my floor” and then exit. But my actions have belied my selfish plan. They have observed that I have not pushed any buttons since I stepped onto the elevator.

 

This lie to my ‘self’, that someone will probably push a button on a lower floor, is buoyed by the thoughts that it is the time when all students change class locations. It is not only possible but more likely probable that someone on a lower floor will push a button and the elevator will stop for them.

 

I no longer wonder what is in the backpacks of the students. I no longer wonder about the lecture and its truth or consequences, its history or its bearing on the future. I only wonder about my “self”, my “essence”, my “nature.” Do these things that I just heard in the lecture have any bearing on this moment?

 

No!

 

My realization is; “This may very well be the end of me.”

 

TOMORROW:  11th Floor

 

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Going Down (Post 3 of 15)

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13th Floor.

 Bartle Library

Bartle Library, Binghamton University, New York

 

The elevator tends to speed up. Some of the students gasp and look at each other.

 

There is no need to panic. We are not plunging to our death. I remain stoic and attempt to look calm while my eyes search for an ‘Emergency’ button on elevator dashboard; just in case. I see something that has an icon of a bell on it. Apparently this is simply an alarm to be used if the elevator is stuck between floors.

 

I am positive, if the elevator ever malfunctioned, there are emergency brakes that would kick out to grab the side-rails and stop the elevator. I know this because I saw it on a “Modern Marvels” television segment.

 

The look of concern on some of the student’s faces molds towards fear. Some of them look to the grey haired old man for reassurance, if not courage. I attempt to give them some as I move my hands upward with my palms downward as if to say “Stay calm, be strong, remain silent.”

 

Is the elevator accelerating or is this simply a new steady speed that was programmed into the elevator software? I know from past employment that a technician can dial into an elevator and look at various aspects and elements of operation. There is even a log of usage and anomalies that is kept for reference. In fact, the elevator technician may have reprogrammed the speed of this elevator while we were in the classroom.

 

The students remain calm for the most part. They have weathered their fear, I believe, due to me. I hope that I also appear calm – – – for the most part.

 

TOMORROW:  12th Floor

 

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