Have you ever been on that ride at Disney World where you get in an elevator, the door closes, and unexpected things happen? No, I’m not talking about the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at the Disney Hollywood Studios. I’m talking about the elevator to the loading platform for the Astro Orbiter in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom. What was supposed to be a rather insignificant part of the attraction turned out to be one of the highlights of my recent visit to Disney World.
It was a very chilly day, so the wait time was unusually short for this ride that lifts guests 60 feet in the air in rockets orbiting colorful planets. We rode the elevator to the loading platform, and when it was our turn, we crammed ourselves into a rocket that was definitely not designed for two adults. We noticed another couple struggling too and it was quite comical. Once the ride started the view from up there was spectacular. When the ride ended we pried ourselves out of our rocket and headed for the elevators.
No one instructed us which elevator to take or how many people it could carry so we simply boarded the nearest one. A family of four followed us. The elevator door tried to close behind them but it hit the grandmother’s backpack as she leaned over to talk to her granddaughter. The door re-opened with a thud! Her son advised her to step in further so the door could close, but unbeknownst to us, it must have been knocked off its track. The elevator lowered about six inches and then stopped.
After a minute or two, the young woman operating the elevators pressed her round face to the glass window and shouted, “Is everybody ok? We know you’re stuck. Help is on the way.” Luckily, none of the 13 people in that elevator were claustrophobic. We were going to be there a while.
The atmosphere in the elevator was actually quite light. The granddaughter, who was probably about 5 years old, suggested we all hold our hands up and use our magic to open the door. I liked this plan! My guess is she will be a Science of Mind or ACIM student one day because she already knows the power of positive thinking. Sadly, our magical powers were not strong enough to open the door.
While we waited several other escape plans were suggested. The most obvious, hitting the “open door” button, only caused the door to open an inch or two. Another little girl told her dad to stick his hand in the small opening and force the door open. Although I applauded her faith in her father’s muscle power, the door kept opening and closing by itself. It probably wasn’t the safest idea if he wanted to keep all ten of his fingers.
After several more minutes, our round-faced elevator operator popped back into the window to tell us not to worry. She had called someone to get us out. The grandmother yelled, “Who did you call? Has this happened before?” We all laughed. She clearly wanted to know what the plan was to get us out. The conversation then turned to how Disney would compensate us for this inconvenience. The guy behind me chimed in, “I better at least get a churro out of this.”
Well, the fire department eventually showed up with an ax and a crowbar to get that door back on track. It sounded like it took quite a bit of effort, but once they succeeded, the elevator began an excruciatingly slow descent until it stopped a little below the first floor. By now a half hour had passed. Granted, it wasn’t as dramatic as the Chilean mining accident of 2010, but we thought perhaps there would be a cheering crowd when we finally emerged. No. They had cleared the area. Only a group of Disney supervisors were there to give us bottled water and collect our information. It was very anticlimactic.
So why was this one of the highlights of my trip you might ask? Well, for one thing, nothing like that has ever happened to me at Disney World. It was fun to have a brand new experience. Not only that, being trapped in an elevator for 30 minutes provided a very unique opportunity for connection. My partner likes to tease me that I’m always looking for ways to connect with people. He’s right. I love people. Perhaps my years of studying A Course in Miracles and its thought system of undoing the ego has slowly re-wired my brain to search for connections rather than give in to the ego’s constant search for separation. In addition, my work with Family Constellations has taught me how much more alike we are than different, so I enjoy discovering those commonalities.
True, it could have been very unpleasant had any of the passengers freaked out or been focused on why Disney shouldn’t have let that happen. Instead, we used our mental energy to entertain and support one another while trying to come up with a solution. We may never know why it happened, or what the ripple effects of that experience might be. I don’t even know the names of the people on that elevator, nor did I get a churro, but I did get an experience of laughter and camaraderie that I will never forget.
Wishing you unexpected joy this holiday season,
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