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Horace and I are free-falling down an elevator shaft, much to my horror, much to his delight.

The time is many years ago when Birmingham still has living elevator operators on duty in each tall building. Horace is the uniformed elevator man at the controls. I am the hapless businessman who makes the mistake of stepping aboard, wearing suit and tie and carrying briefcase.

Horace and I are alone in the elevator, so for the moment he is in total charge of me and my smug universe. At least for the next fifteen stories down.

Horace’s ritual is clear to me only later, when I’m trying to calm down, when I am counting my lucky stars.

Earlier, the upward ride from first to fifteenth is smooth and gentle, as there are other passengers present. But right now, with no-one else aboard, Horace has a chance to play his game, the only game in which he for a few seconds has total control of his life. And mine.

Horace nods a polite, obligatory nod and grasps the handled wheel as he closes the clanging doors.

Staring expressionless straight ahead, he spins the wheel to what I can only assume is full throttle position, and the elevator begins its joy-ride drop.

I back up against the wall and clutch my briefcase, gasp deeply and glance in panic at Horace, who is elegantly expressionless and artfully oblivious to my plight.

The elevator descends as if in free fall, my stomach ascends as if compensating for the fall, I suddenly decide that this is definitely a structured game. I must play my part.

Pretending to ignore my internal churnings, my last rites recitations, my roller coaster fears, I, too, become stoic and expressionless, lest Horace reduce me to a whimpering mass.

Just before the feeling of certain death and transfiguration, the elevator magically screeches to a halt at the first floor. I try experiencing breathing again. I straighten my tie, hold my head up as if nothing unusual has occurred. Horace opens the doors and I wobble through them to the lobby, just as he says in his most gentlemanly and polite voice, “Watch your step.”

And so I shall, so I shall.

One thing I learn from this experience is that exercise is good for me. You know, at my tender age, walking down fifteen flights next time is probably going to be the right thing to do.

Assuming I ever enter this particular building again

© Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

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