Saturday, June 30, 2007

Yin And Yang

Now we come to the tale of last week. A tale of Karma. A tale of woe and salvation. And donuts.

As you all know, Marvelous Charles is in the throes of grad school. He attends in Madison at the illustrious University of Wisconsin. One of the main reasons for us moving from the small town in which we work, across the border to our rural place in the sun: instate tuition. At some point, say in 2-3 years (these academic time lines are strangely vague to me) he will have his PhD (which I pronounce "Fudd", as in "Elmer", because I can't help such things) in educational-something-or-other and we will only have to share him with work, running and football.

At least that's the plan.

Along the way, he's also looking into garnering his superintendent's license, so he can, well, superintend, if the right situation comes up. No one in his right mind wants to be a middle school principal all their live-long days. It's a good gig for now, but he'd like not to be doing it at the age of 60.

So, last Thursday, he trotted up to campus to have a little heart-to-heart with the Powers That Be about what he'd need to do to get his superintendent's license, in addition to his current course work, followed by his exam this fall, followed by writing his comprehensive exams (and orally defending them), then the dissertation proposal (which must be orally defended, too), and, if accepted, the actual magnum opus of dissertation and (well, naturally) the defense of such.

At the end of which will be much wine and song and fatty foods. You're all invited.

And this is where nature fell out of balance.

You see, the Powers That Be (who consisted of a nice woman with, let's hope, some authority and not one of the adjunct faculty having a laugh) told him that "things could be arranged" and they basically could wipe out his need for the 6 hour exam covering 2 courses this fall, wipe out his need for the 2 comps exams, and thought that the courses for his superintendency would fall in with his general requirements.

Bada-boom, bada-bing! More for less!!

Again, this is not in writing.

Filled with hope and light of foot, our Charles tripped merrily to the elevators of the grim cement rectangle that houses the education department and hopped aboard Elevator #1.

And, here's where Karma realigned the universe, which had tipped dangerously in his favor. Half way down from floor #13 (that would be floor #6+1/2), the elevator stopped. Thinking this was an odd thing for elevators to do, but remembering that he's heard of other elevators in the building breaking down (namely Elevator #2, the partner of Elevator #1), he was not as shocked as one might otherwise be.

He looked for a way to pry the doors open, as he's seen done multiple times on TV by grannies. Nope. No way. He looked up to see if he could escape through the panel in the ceiling, again as we know to do from the entertainment media. Not happening. Clearly, these elevators were bought on the cheap from the Houdini foundation.

Well, nothing for it but to push The Red Button at the bottom of the floor button panel. You know The Red Button: the one we've all secretly wanted to push but don't dare. The one that says "Emergency" on it. I always figured it sounded some alarm.

Before pressing The Red Button, shall we mention that the fire alarm started to go off.

So it was with no calmly beating heart that our beloved Charles punched The Red Button, suspended about 80 feet above the earth's surface in a machine that suddenly seemed less than kindly.

Shall we mention that our Marvelous Charles has a decided dislike of heights? Usually this means things like airplane flights and lookouts over ravines with flimsy guard rails, but his new predicament of being trapped in an elevator with the fire alarm sounding is not made more comfortable by being a goodly distance from the ground.

So, with a desperate pounding with his thumb, did he activate The Red Button:

"911. Do you need help?" came the disembodied voice from the panel.

"Oh, yes. Please."

"Are you in Elevator 1?"

"Yes, indeed."

"Shall we come and get you out?"

"That'd be nice. And the fire alarm is sounding. Is there a fire?"

"Not to my knowledge, but someone will be there in about 15 minutes."

Longest damn 15 minutes of his life, and this is a man who's played several seasons of rugby, has administered a middle school and taken weapons off 'children' who've outweighed him by several stone, not to mention faced down armed, pissed parents. He routinely diffuses enraged custodial staff, lunch ladies, bus drivers and secretaries with aplomb. He has yet to be poisoned by the head of the teacher's union. This, in short, is a man with no little courage.

He has also, in younger days, broken up an altercation consisting of 20 snow ball throwing youths and a really cranky old man by asserting his presence and authority. He may have also uttered the phrase, "Excuse me!! Can I help? I'm an undercover narcotics agent." (Phrase said in a booming voice that caused all involved to either hop back into his Lincoln Town Car or scurry back to their respective houses.) We may mock Marvelous Charles but we do not doubt his courage and resourcefulness.

But, in the end, many members of the fire dept came. They had quite a difficulty getting the doors open, but he did get to climb out through the doors and jump the 5 feet to the solid floor and not have to be hoisted out the roof, a la Hollywood.

And there was no actual fire, thank goodness, but one of the firefighters noted that he smelled smoke, likely from evil Elevator #1, just having another laugh at the expense of one of those punk college kids.

So, all's well and so forth.

Will The Powers That Be keep her word? Will the misfortune of having been trapped in the elevator assure that the good things discussed in the preceding meeting will come to pass? Will Marvelous Charles ride in another elevator again or will he forever more climb the 13 flights of stairs to his classes? Will this generalize to a more universal distrust of elevators in general?

Time will tell, but the next day he decided to start living life to the fullest, starting with breakfast:

Pictures for you

These here are the best donuts known to man. They are a chocolate yeast dough, filled with this... this...I can barely describe it with any adequacy: a cross between freshly made whipped cream and custard tasting strongly of vanilla, not too sweet. It is topped with thick, very chocolate frosting, again, not too sweet. The good from the bad.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aww, that Rascally Charles has all the fun!!! Glad he made it out okay with his sanity intact. And after that words of wisdom from the School of Ed. If things fall apart, you and I will take the kids and have our way with everyone in authority. Maybe after this experience, he will no longer be reluctant to fly out to see the Oregon side of the family.

The Ole RF-er

2:55 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Yikes! My heart was in my mouth along with his in this story re-cap! Poor guy!
He sure has a lot on his plate and I hope some good karma source will scoop some of it off!

My niece graduated from U. of W. and was down there on a women's hockey scholarship from Canada. Great place and wonderful coaches for the Badgers! They treated her very well. She went on to get her Masters at Ohio U. in Sports Admin and Event Planning, having just graduated this June. Alas , she just got a job with The Texas Leaf Org. in Texas where her boyfriend is and I shall likely never see this "Canuck" again!

You've got great sports programs down there!

6:45 PM  
Blogger Cagey said...

Shuddering here - I've freaked out in elevators before when briefly stuck.

I always thought PhD stood for Permanently Head Damaged, but I like your Fudd better! :-)

11:08 PM  
Blogger Dumdad said...

Crikey, that was scarey!

I'd rather face (or head in my case) an army of earwigs than be trapped in a lift (as we Brits call it) while the fire alarm is blaring out. At least, the red button worked.

P.S. The donuts look très yummy

8:19 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Dad- Yes, we are all very happy that he was not trapped in a burning building in the elevator. Somehow, I don't think this will make him more trustful of planes.

Ruth- Very cool about your niece! Each year, Charles takes a group of boys from his school up to watch a UW women's hockey match. They also tour the campus and have the idea that college is a realistic goal. (His district is quite poor.) Texas, huh? That's a looooong way away. The sports programs are very good but the academics are excellent. (As I've been wont to brag, he's in the #1 program in the nation for his area of study. Not too shabby. They beat out Harvard and Vanderbuilt.)

Cagey- I've yet to be stuck in an elevator, partly because I rarely have the opportunity to take them, now. When I did work in an elevator-rich building I tried to do the stairs to get some sort of exercise. (I like your definition of PhD!)

Dumdad- He admits to being quite concerned about the whole thing, but, as he reminded me after I posted this, he did ride down to the ground in the adjacent elevator (#2) along with the fire fighters who rescued him. No fool, him. I've been outside for most of the morning and I ran into several evil earwigs. I glared at each of them and even added a menacing growl at some, on behalf of your 'incident'.

1:48 PM  
Blogger Babs said...

I'm with Charles on fearing the planes and the ravines with rickety guardrails. I was never scared of elevators, though, for obvious reasons; having a father who had worked on them and told you all the secrets of how the workers would sort it if you ever got stuck made them FAR less anxiety-inducing. And knowing that most newer elevators have whatsits and whosits in place to (hopefully) stop plummeting (I think). I could be confused.

The older ones do raise a worrying eyebrow, mind.

Fingers crossed for the karma!!

And those doughnuts looks suspiciously Boston Creme-ish. I'll take a dozen.

Ok, half. I'm slimming, dammit.

10:26 PM  
Blogger Voyager said...

Well it's good to know the elevator emergency buttons actually worked. I've wondered if they were not purely decorative.

12:37 AM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

From Line 1 to the killer photo at the end, you had me. Well done post, Diana!

And we have a Psychic Sister thing going on, methinks, as I just posted a story about my husband's latest adventure. And it, em, ends with donuts, too!

1:04 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Babs- Ooooh! Really? Whatsits AND whosits in place? That would be nice. The amazing donuts are in the Boston Creme tradition, my fave.

Voyager- Yes, I felt quite good knowing that they connect you directly to a human over at '911' central. I figured all that would happen would be a loud, shrieking alarm.

Jocelyn- Scary mirroring summer we seem to be having, although, you are getting your thrills miles from home, mine are on my own turf. Not sure what that means, except I am spending less on gas and sleeping in my own bed. I will also take my donuts over yours that were cooked in ear oil, although it might add a certain 'gamey' bouquet. (By the way, I just got a letter from an ENT consultant I sent someone to, and they recommended using sweet oil in the ear, too, but made it sound much higher class, having it all dictated in a letter with nice letterhead and all. No recipes.)

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Kate W. said...

Holy Crap! Poor Charles... are you sure he didn't wet his pants and you are just not telling us? That is what I would have done! Fingers crossed that the Powers that Be are right and don't just give him a blank "what are you talking about" stare... I speak from experience.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Coffee-Drinking Woman said...

That elevator issue? That's why I take the stairs as often as possible. (Though, truthfully,I'm much more inclined to take them down than up - when I worked on the 24th floor of a nice, tall building, I took the stairs down nearly every day. I never took them up.... well, sometimes I'd get off on the 15th floor and take some of them up, but never all 24 floors...)

1:44 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Kate- Nope. He may be feeling the fear but he does not show the fear. Nosiree. As to the blank stare, I think it's a distinct possibility.

Teri- I like your approach to elevators. Cuts your chance of being stuck in half without all the sweating. My med school's teaching hospital had elevators so phenomenally slow you just routinely took the stairs, even if doing peds on the 14th floor. (The cafeteria was, of course, in the basement.) It was probably intentional as that was the only exercise many of us ever got. The whole 'Mens sana in corpore sano' without actually letting us have the time off to partake in fitness stuff.

8:42 AM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

I had to get over my fear of elevators when I moved onto the 26th (now 27th) floor. Although it wasn't so much get over as squash into a little tiny ball of repression.

I used to say that as long as I had a book, I could handle anything. So the one day I do get trapped in an elevator, I do not have a book. I got trapped between floors 4 & 5 so not too worrisome and the emergency button went right to the front desk.

As I'm standing there, one tear dripping down my face in my valiant attempt to be brave, I hear "Are you okay?" Forgot about the cameras. It all worked out in the end, I was only in there for about 15 minutes but that's way too long without a book!

12:26 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

I'm so glad that Charles is okay! I don't have the fear of heights but I am afraid of being trapped in small spaces so I can understand not wanting to be trapped in an elevator!


12:50 PM  
Blogger listie said...

Yikes! Poor Charles. At least there were real people to come to his rescue.

In our library, when the alarm bell rang, we (the circ staff) had to run over and yell at the door, "Are you stuck?" If someone was then we had to call and find someone to get the poor person out. Usually, however, it was just students trying out the red button.

4:05 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

Dana- Maybe you should put books in places where you concievably need them, like the elevator and everyone's glove compartment. Or just have one surgically attached to you, just in case, you know. Waterproofed for bathing. Detachable cover for accessorizing.

You did sound like a brave soldier, despite the tear.

Karen- I can see why elevators and you would not be a good fit.

Listie- I am giggling over you and the rest of the circ staff having to act as the 911 folks. Apparently the students in your library are not seen as trustworthy and deserving of a Red Button that connects them directly with 911.

9:23 AM  
Blogger moegirl said...

Yikes- poor Charles, that sucks. However, I believe the harrowing elevator incident balances out the good grad school news- since he had the bad experience in the elevator the good news must now be true- its all about balance.

Those doughnuts looks SO good.

1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not fun that elevator stuff.

Be sure to get anything in writing that says you don't have to do a requirement, that another one will suffice. I know from experience. A counselor said I didn't have to take a couple of courses for my masters because other stuff qualified. Not true. Fortunately, before submitting all my stuff for graduation I rechecked with the NEW powers that be and found I did, indeed, have to take the two classes. Set me back a whole term but fortunately I found out before I tried to walk down the aisle, hand out for the diploma.


5:42 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

Stace- That's what we are hoping, that the good is balanced by the bad.

Cathy- Don't worry. We both only trust a benefit in writing.

6:32 AM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

You are such a fantastic story teller--and a master (mistress?) of suspense.

Those donuts look fabulous!

2:42 PM  

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