I almost spent Shabbat Chol HaMoed locked in an office building.
Since we in Israel are spared the horrors of the three-day (Thurs-Fri-Sat) yontiff, I decided to take advantage of my chol Friday to go into the office and catch up on some emails. In general, I never come into work on Fridays. So I did not know that the entire office building is closed and locked every Friday at 2:30pm.
I was hard at work at 2:30, so I must not have noticed when all the hallways lights went out. Nor did I hear the large metal door to the stairwell being securely locked and barred. And I certainly did not hear the elevator being grounded. But at 3pm, I got up to go the bathroom and noticed that all the doors were locked. There I was, alone on the fourth floor with nothing but a bottle of water, three coconut cookies (hardly shalosh seudot, that), and a roomful of books.
It could have been worse. I almost resigned myself to spending Shabbat reading in solitary confinement when I remembered that I was supposed to leyn two prakim of Shir Hashirim the next day. And give a d’var Torah. And show up at dinner and lunch. So I had to get out somehow.
I tried to think creatively about how to liberate myself. I am friendly with the security guard at the McDonald’s across the street (he used to be the security guard at the yeshiva), so I thought I could holler out the window to him — but McDonald’s was closed for Pesach (or at least it was closed that day). So no luck there. I then realized that I could call my boss for advice, but I was way too embarrassed to own up to being in the office on a Friday afternoon. So I was stumped. I ate one of the coconut cookies and tried to answer some more emails to distract myself. But then I started to panic again.
The most embarrassing part of this story is that a similar thing happened to me on my second day at Random House. The woman who was training me, Meredith, sent me to deliver an interoffice memo on the floor below. I accidentally went through the “Emergency Only Alarm Will Sound” staircase (instead of the regular internal staircase) and ended up in a 35-floor stairwell in which the door to every floor was locked. (Believe me, I know — I checked each one multiple times.) I finally sounded the emergency alarm on the sub-basement level, pushed open the door, and ended up in the dumpster area between 52nd and 53rd streets on the backside of Park Avenue. I did not have a good answer when Meredith asked me what had taken so long….
Anyway — back to Jerusalem. In the end, after phoning up a friend who calmed me down considerably, I realized that I could call our office assistant and ask her for the number of the landlord. That worked. Our landlord Moshe (I am NOT making that up — that is his real name), shrugged his shoulders and said, “Az mah?” He was already back in Tel Aviv at this point, he told me. But he said he’d call me back in a little while. I gritted my teeth and vowed that I would not call him back until he called me. I did not want to act like the impatient American I was.
That resolution lasted for twenty minutes. I finally called Moshe again and he said, “Nu?” Nu what? Turns out he had managed to turn on the elevator from afar — but I guess he assumed I would just figure this out. Anyway, I sailed down the elevator to freedom and had much more kavanah for the rest of Pesach. Like Bnei Yisrael, I had been set free by Moshe. The elevator was turned on and off for just enough time so that I could pass through. Ya’aleh v’yavo indeed.
Anyway, I think that was enough of an adventure for me this Pesach. Dayenu, I hope.