Since the ground has thawed in the city, workers have sprung to life, finishing projects that had been delayed all winter. In our building, this involved repainting the stairwell. I’m not sure why this had to occur in the spring, but it did. I often wonder what the system is as to prioritization.

So for a week or two we had the paint fumes, and we tried to do as much airing out of the flat as possible, without freezing ourselves and/or David.

When they were finished, they painted the elevator. The elevator is a tiny space with one dim lightbulb, so dark brown seemed like a strange paint color, although it did cover up graffiti nicely.

I tried summoning the elevator the other day when I was leaving for a meeting. It didn’t come, and on my way home I found that it had been repainted a gray color, probably due to complaints about the dark brown. It smelled again, but there was hope that these projects were done.

The next afternoon, we came home from church and found the elevator stopped at the first floor, with the doors open. It struck me as strange that the doors were open, as they usually shut automatically. But we squeezed in anyway with the stroller, took a few minutes to count and figure out which button was ours (the numbers had been painted over), and pressed it carefully. The doors closed, and I was relieved that the elevator worked, as I was not in the mood to trudge up to the seventh floor. However, the doors closed, and we didn’t go anywhere, and they didn’t open again.

We were stuck in an elevator with a baby and paint fumes. We started pressing the “door open” button and the emergency “connect with dispatcher” button, or where we guessed they would be, sans labels.

When someone came in from outside and began to call the elevator, we shouted, “the elevator is broken! We’re trapped in here with a baby!” The man grumbled over the elevator being out of order, and decided to take the stairs.

We didn’t know a phone number to call, and the emergency numbers had all been painted over (they are usually marked in later with magic marker). The only people we know in our building live directly below us, and they were the realtors who sold us the flat for their friends, who were their neighbors (long story). That phone number was on Andrei’s cell phone…which he had forgotten at home when we’d left for church in the morning.

David was starting to wake up. Well, if he got really upset, I could nurse him, but that was going to be hard without having had anything to eat/drink myself. Would I pass out eventually from the paint fumes? How long was it going to take to get out? Minutes? Hours? Were we in actual danger?

We used my phone to call Andrei’s parents and ask them to call and get a tech over to our building.

Meanwhile, people kept coming into the building and seemed to not hear us calling for help. One woman heard us and we asked her to call the emergency services and she said “I don’t know the number” and walked away.

Finally, another woman realized we were stuck and walked away saying “Just a minute.” That sounded hopeful.

Apparently this woman found a phone number (or Andrei’s parents got through), and 5-10 minutes later someone was banging on the door and saying “You in there, which floor were you trying to get to?” Don’t ask me why that mattered, but he went up to another floor and called the elevator and the doors popped open. “He” being the technician.

Freedom! As soon as were were out of the elevator, into the building walked Vladimir the downstairs-realtor-neighbor and his wife. So they hadn’t been home after all. Hopefully they would have helped us out if they’d happened by five minutes earlier!

I don’t know who the woman was that called the tech, but I’m grateful to her!

Oh, and the elevator technician, chipping away at stuck pieces of paint and gum that were clogging the elevator shaft, asked why we hadn’t pressed the emergency button.

“But we DID.”

“Evidently you didn’t press hard enough.”