I was reared in a home by parents of German descent. My father, whom our children called Opa, was a missile engineer. Consistent with our family heritage and with his line of work, he strove to be systematic and logical.
I try to apply what I learned from him, but I don't always succeed. For one thing, I am a little claustrophobic. In tight situations, I tell myself that I am not being rational and I have been working, with some progress, to overcome it.
Recently my wife, Patricia, and I were attending a meeting with twenty-some other newspaper people on the seventh floor of an old building. As we entered the building we began crowding toward a couple of tiny, dark elevators. It was apparent to me right away that this was not for me.
Patricia got on, but I told her I'd meet her at the top, and climbed the stairs with a few others who said they wanted the exercise.
We got to the top, went into the meeting room and started to chat with our hosts. Some others from our party joined a few minutes later. After about fifteen minutes, someone asked the question, "Where's the rest of our party? Are they stuck on the elevator?!"
We went back to the elevators and someone ran down some stairs and heard them hollering for help. My heart sank. Seven of them, including my wife, never got to the top, but help came quickly.
Patricia, also somewhat claustrophobic, told me later that after she had entered the elevator, others entered and crowded her to the back. They had pushed the button to go up, but after ascending, it lost power and stopped.
It had no phone, and the emergency bell didn't work. The space was so tight that it quickly grew hot.
She told me that she coped with it surprisingly well.
As we discussed it, we both determined not to feed a phobia. We made up our minds, when we are compelled to use an old, small elevator, we'd stay in a position to get off if it became overcrowded.
Despite this incident, I'm making headway; I used to dread flying but don't any more. I gave up on chiding myself to be rational.
What works is distracting my mind with a book.
What would Opa say to that? He'd probably say: Do it!
Art Hall, publisher
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