Stand Clear

To the three of you who have bought into my facade and think me a saint, I have bad news for you: I stared down a smirking red-headed woman yesterday, left foot on the brake, right foot hovering inches above the gas pedal. Unhinged anger shot from head and barreled down to ankle threatening to seize it into a flattened position. But before I can tell you that story, I need to tell you this story.

Thursday, 12:20pm 

Even before the metallic doors had slid to a close in front of me, I’m annoyed. The day before, I made the unfortunate discovery my antidepressants had run out, and I had forgotten to pick up a refill while I was home for spring break. I called the doctor’s office an hour before walking into this elevator and they assured me I could pick it up in thirty minutes from their affiliate near me. When I walked up to the pharmacy window, I explained my situation. “ABSOLUTELY NOT WHO TOLD YOU THAT,” the pot-bellied pharmacy representative boomed, as though I willingly drove fifteen minutes into the heart of downtown during my lunch break in order to pull some kind of elaborate practical joke on him, a complete stranger. I told him the help line and he sighed, pressed some buttons. He thrust a form at me and told me to come back in three hours.

This is the state I found myself in as I entered the elevator to return to the parking garage. The pharmacy is in an urgent care facility reminiscent of a hospital, so the elevator is spacious. There is a guy in the back right corner, a technician of some kind, pushing a machine on a cart. A woman, mid-thirties enters behind me, clutching a prescription bag. Lucky, I think to myself but don’t say, increasingly annoyed. I go to refresh my email when I remember there’s no service, sigh, and put it back in my pocket.

The elevator blows past my floor (B) straight on down to C. An automated voice comes on the loudspeaker “DO NOT BE ALARMED. THIS CAR IS BEING REDIRECTED FOR AN EMERGENCY. PLEASE EXIT THE CAR ORDERLY AND QUICKLY. REMAIN CALM.” It’s a humbling reminder of what actually matters, though I am getting rather tired of people (and machines) speaking to me in capitals. We three (kings, haha I’m a PK so I have to overspiritualize at least one thing every 15 minutes or I turn to dust) file into a line in order to orderly exit. I’m in the middle.

We await in that morbid anticipation you feel when you pass a car wreck or hear sirens, hoping to catch a glimpse of… what, exactly? the injured? blood? Or does it not matter so long as there is an interruption to the monotony of your daily life? It’s a curious behavior we humans have, but a natural and often unavoidable one nonetheless. So, we wait eagerly for the doors to open to some sort of exciting sight.

And we wait.

And we wait.

The woman in front, as though in a movie, checks her watch then looks up. The technician, sporting glasses and an unkempt goatee pipes up. “I was just talking to security, and the elevator next door to us had shut down moments ago.” (This is the moment where you wish you had déjà vu working when it actually mattered, so you could have known not to get into the elevator). Two or three minutes have passed and it becomes clear the elevator is not opening. I return to my corner and the woman gives out a groan before saying “seriously?” I remind you she had her prescription only to affirm that I was clearly the true victim in this situation. Yes, there was a person outside the doors possibly squirting blood from the jugular (I’ve seen a few doctor shows so this is obviously my professional opinion), desperately waiting for the doors to open so he can go to the OR, but I think we can all agree I’m still the clear winner in the “victim column.”

Regardless of who the biggest victim is (me), one thing is clear: the three of us aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Thursday, 4:58pm.

I’ve never tore into a parking garage so quickly. When I left my apartment at 3:30 to make the 15 minute drive for the second time that day, I hadn’t anticipated texting my boss to let her know I’d be arriving late to our 5:15 meeting. I’m on level B and have to walk down the garage to level C so I can take the stairs up to the first floor (Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…).

I bound up the stairs two at a time and nearly pull the machine over trying to rip off a ticket for the pharmacy. It’s now 5:05 and there’s no way, even without traffic, I’m going to make it. The pharmacist finally calls my name and I leap up, tearing the bag out of her hands with greedy fingers.

I run down the stairs and peel out of the garage. I’m so quick, I don’t have to pay. At 5:45, I turn into a parking lot that’s reserved parking until 6:00pm. I shoot a menacing glare towards the campus safety officer parked on the street across from the parking lot. I say nothing, but he gets the gist that I’m out for blood. I take the stairs and throw the door open, breathless, without looking. My colleagues, in a prayerful silence, look up.

Thursday, 12:30pm 

“Okay, I’m sending an officer now. Hang in there.”

The human voice is replaced by an automated one. “Press 0 to stay on the line for three more minutes.” Tone.

I’m not normally hungry (or angry) but I’m getting hangry. Actually, I’m getting Hangry. We hear a knock on the doors and a faint call “Hello?”

Lab tech: “H-”

Voice: “HELLO?????”

Lab tech: “He-”

Voice: Increased banging followed by “HELLLOOOOOOOOO”

Lab Tech: Banging “HI WE’RE IN HERE”

Voice: “Oh! Great. Just you, then?”

LT: “There’s three of us.”

V: “Okay, great, just the one. Staff or patient?”


Automated Voice: “Press 0 to stay on the line for three more minutes.” Tone.

V: “Oh! Three people, all patients, got it.”

LT: “NO! One staff, two pharmacy customers”

V: “Oh! Three staff members.”

The lady who walked in behind me: “Oh my God.”

It was three words that she said, but what we all heard was “If this lady can’t even take down our basic demographics, we’re all going to die in here before any substantial help is even called.” Lab technician and I nod our heads in terse agreement.

This interaction went on for two more minutes and then,

“Press 0 to stay on the line for three more minutes.” Tone.

Thursday, 4:30 pm 

I’ve been on the same four block stretch for twenty minutes. Six cars ahead of me have bailed, flipping poor U-Turns on the narrow road. I succumb to the fact that I’m going to die on this street. To my left, yellow strand lights hang between trees. People are playing Frisbee despite the rain. I make a pact to, moments before I succumb to the clutches of death by boredom, army crawl beneath a tree. It seems like a lovely way to end this life’s journey.

Fifteen minutes later, I’m at the front of the last light before traffic clears up. The light turns red before I can go. There’s something cruel about it to, I can feel it’s red glare laughing at me. After a few changes of traffic patterns, the light turns green and I want to gun it. But a strawberry-haired woman crosses against the light, making direct eye contact with me. This woman likes to watch the world burn. She deliberately walks slow.

For the entire length that she is in the front of my car, I see myself on the sidewalk watching the scene play out. There is a crowd of us whispering “did you see him hit her?” We are glued to the intersection like a moth to a porch light.  A man approaches me, “What happened, what’s going on?” “Justifiable homicide,” sidewalk me says to him.

Thursday, 1:08 pm.

After 45 minutes of being trapped on floor C in elevator car 19, we hear a loud “STAND CLEAR OF THE DOORS”

A hissing sound is heard and the doors pop open. Eight people, all men, stare at us. In the unluckiest twist of irony, we have become the morbid fascination of someone else.

Bryce Van Vleet is a psychology undergraduate based in the Pacific Northwest. He is a lover of words, terrible video-game player, and frequent drinker of soda and other sugary drinks.

The next Funny Friday will be posted on May 4th. Keep an eye out for other features coming in the meantime!

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