Friday, May 16: I had allotted five minutes for riding to the third floor, collecting my suitcase, and boarding the bus. Clutching the remnants of my breakfast, I stared at the elevator numbers. Why weren’t they glowing? Why wasn’t I moving?
At our five-star hotel’s breakfast buffet, I had eaten fresh apricots, Brie on bread, smoked salmon, and five pieces of Turkish delight. The apricots baffled one of my classmates. “How do you eat it?” “It’s just like a peach,” I reassured her. She replied, “I’ve never eaten a peach before.”
Just as I was wondering whether I should go solicit that classmate for help, the elevator swung into motion. When the doors cracked open to reveal a young man with luggage in tow, I skipped out past him. Halfway down the hall, I paused.
This was the wrong floor.
Too late I remembered that the elevator required a hotel key to activate. It hadn’t responded to my button mashing. Instead, the young man must have summoned it without its ever acknowledging my presence. I needed to get down to the floor beneath… but I had given my roommate the key.
That’s okay, I thought, I’ll take the stairs. I hurried to a white panel marked “Fire Door” and pushed onto the landing beyond it. There I faced a sealed entrance to the staircase. As the door behind me slid closed, the thought flickered in my mind: What if it… I spun around and grabbed the handle.
Locked. My mind leaped up, flashing white tails at me. I had no cell phone. No one knew where I was. I should already be on the bus. I began to pound on the door.
The night before, we had darted across the street to visit a shopping mall built like a cruise ship, in search of an ATM. Caroline and I had attempted to puzzle out a store map written entirely in Turkish. Though we identified our own location and even found places labeled ‘ATM,’ we couldn’t manage to link the two.
Now, trapped in a closet between two doors, I realized the only way out was forward. A white silhouette of a man sprinting alongside green arrows guided me onward. I could not escape onto the third floor, because no door allowed access to the hotel’s innards. I pounded down flight after flight of stairs, wondering if I would even escape at the ground floor.
Thanks be to God, the traitorous stairs spit me out into the lobby. Head hung, I followed the last of my classmates onto the elevator. “Third floor, right?” I verified. We all should have reported to the bus five minutes ago.
“No excuses,” Dr. G intoned when we emerged at last. “I don’t want to hear any stories.”
I saved it for the blog.