By Vivien Mitchell | Published Dec 10, 2014 5:18:00 PM
The good old ‘elevator pitch’. It’s a well-known condensed gem of a pitch that we’re all meant to store up our sleeves for that opportune moment when we’re in the elevator with the CEO, person of influence, potential employer or funder. This is preparedness for that moment where being opportunistic makes good business sense. especially if you are trying to get people to support you.
Yesterday, I had a rather more inopportune experience, when I became stuck in one of the work lifts, alone, for close to half an hour. On hearing “we are experiencing a technical problem” and feeling a jolt much like when stalling a car at traffic lights, I knew immediately that this was a ‘fear come true’. A scenario I had always dreaded, had eventuated.
So here I was, with no senior executive to impress, alone in a large box and connected only to an emergency operator in another building. Help was at least 20 minutes away. The 30-seconds-to-convince-with-my-latest-bright-idea pitch was a futile concept, so my mid ran wild as it adjusted to the prospect of facing this fear.
It went kind of like this. The first involuntary thought was about my bladder. “Holy sheet, what if I am stuck here for three hours???” As a mum of five, you can imagine that there are some plumbing issues down south, and this single thought caused enormous angst as I imagined facing an even worse fear; being desperate and dateless in a lift. At least there was no-one to make me laugh, which can be problematic for many mothers. Laughing, running and jumping on a trampoline; fortunately all highly unlikely in this situation.
Almost as soon as worrying about ‘urgency’, I panicked about being thirsty. I’ve been thirsty for the last 21 years, since I was pregnant with my 20 year old and then breastfeeding five babies. Here I was without a water bottle, OMG. What was I going to do?
Then I tried to rationalise. I weighed the size of the lift against an MRI scanner. I comforted myself that it wasn’t nearly as claustrophobic as that tubular coffin, in which I had recently spent a full hour. I’d got through that brain and spinal scan by keeping my eyes closed and dozing through the Melbourne Cup. I kid you not, the radiographer got on the speaker phone and asked me if I had a horse in the sweep about midway through the process.
Playing Candy Crush, which would have been a happy distraction, wasn’t possible as that old device was in my handbag under my desk. I quickly discounted light amusement as a way to spend the time.
I then tried to productively use the forced rest time. A chronic multi-tasker, I thought about various next steps for my different projects, and castigated myself for not being pro-active enough in the development of my dream idea. I decided to take action upon liberation from said trap.
I thought I could calm down by doing some yoga poses. I tried a few but was horrified by the dressing-room harsh lighting and reflection in the mirror. I also wondered if there was a security camera in the ceiling, so abandoned that as quickly as I started.
Curiously, I relived some last conversations and felt very connected to my gorgeous girlfriend who died earlier this year. I shed a few tears and embraced her presence, in tune with her spirit in that solitary and silent space. I listened to her voice, clearly whispering, “Mitchie, didn’t you think I was coming back?” as she did on a beach exactly one year ago.
It didn’t take long to resort to humour to amuse myself. I realised that I could use the time effectively to think up dot points for a blog post. I thought about clever hooks and names and settled on ‘Elevator Pitch’. This was my ‘aha!’ moment.
And I had one life-line. A new work colleague kept texting me with helpful suggestions and funny stories. She actually made me laugh….as a communications professional, who often deals with strategic comms in crisis situations, she was simply fabulous. When I finally emerged from the lift, that had, for the last two minutes, been moving up and down between floors without warning (causing my anxiety levels to elevate as much as the physical structure around it)….I walked out on the fifth floor, into her waiting arms and burst into tears. We’ve only known each other for two weeks.
There’s always a positive take-out, even from being stuck in a lift. Mine was – predictably for me – all about connection. Connection with one of my oldest and (sadly) most absent friends; and connection with my newest (and in that particular experience) most present one. Yep, she gave me a lift. I wouldn’t recommend it for a bucket list experience, but you just never know where your mind will head if you have an elevator glitch.