Thursday, March 15, 2012


Thursday was a morning like any other. Well, not exactly. I had slept only three hours- You see, the previous night I was shouting my voice hoarse in a club, cheering on Chelsea as they made an amazing come-back, overturning a 3-1 deficit to thump Napoli 4-1 at the Stamford bridge in a Champions' League knockout match. Being a Chelsea fan lately has been like supporting Arsenal in the past 6 years (pun VERY intended); too much promise, too little delivery, and bile from Manchester United fans. I nearly developed ulcers in our 3 torrid months- how Arsenal fans have survived 6 years of migraine-inducing now-we're-good-now-we're-dead football is very nearly an act of God, in my humble opinion.
        But I digress. So, I wake up in the morning, feeling light-headed. I shower, dress and head off to work. At work they all know I support Chelsea, and the congratulations I received might have made one think I scored the winning goal myself.  I then sat down, checked ma mail,  gloated some more about Chelsea on twitter, then the assignment editor informed me that some Kamiti Prisoners were set to testify against some judge at the Judiciary vetting. Destination; Anniversary Towers, 21st floor.
    I quickly assemble my gear; Pen: check, Notebook: check. Tapes- ah, I need tapes. Quick trip to Library, where I spend a few minutes haggling with the librarian over unreturned requisitions. Anyway, the matter is soon settled and off I go.
    At the anniversary towers we find the first available lift. There's a bunch of people representing the disabled fraternity, headed 20 floors up with us as well. They probably have a bone to pick with another judge. We all crowd in- no one wants to be left behind. We must have filled that lift to capacity- I think we were thirteen-to-fifteen. The lift beeps endlessly, because someone's garment is still in the sensor's zone. He squeezes in, and it's time to ascend.
    We went as far as the mezzanine floor. The lift suddenly bumped violently, twice, and stopped. Cue Total Darkness. There was a second of total silence, followed by a "Gosh, sasa ni nini?" The answer sank in three seconds later on all of us. We were stuck in a crammed lift, thanks to a power blackout.
    This was the first time it had happened to me. So was it for several of us, going by the hysterical whimpers that followed. I jokingly thought of the movie "Devil", the 2010 horror flick set in a lift, which starts with a stalling, and ends with all but two occupants dead at the end. Like I said, I thought about it jokingly.
    But that wasn't the case for the ladies in there. We hadn't been there 3 minutes, and panic had set in for some.
    'ai yay yay! Aki tumekwama, this is very serious!" quipped one.
    ' You know we can suffocate," said another
    "Pigia Saitoti!' added a third,
    Yes, you heard me right. One was asking for the Internal Security Minister to be phoned. Granted, it sounded like she worked in his ministry, but getting stuck in a lift isn't exactly a matter of national security, is it?
    I could have agreed with the one who quipped about suffocation. When our phones shed light in the mini-prison, the small opening at the lift door revealed a wall. We were stuck between Ground-floor and mezzanine. Oxygen was therefore about to be premium. But the yapping women and chatterbox man next to me were eating it all up so fast!
    For someone with respiratory problems, I knew I owed it to myself not to panic. So I breathed slowly. But however slow I tried, within five minutes I was turning my head in all directions, trying not avoid breathing in the breath of the man breathing out next to my nostrils!
    I sent out a text to my assignment editor informing him of the situation.
'Stuck in a lift in Anniversary Towers. Blackout." it said. Guess his response?
'we are praying for you' . The joker.
    My notebook earned a new designation as a fan, at least to circulate the hot air burning my nose. The heat was beginning to sear all over. Never underestimate the carbon dioxide you exhale. Our combined heaves, huffs and puffs were turning this dark lift into a boiler. I loosened my tie.
    Just when I thought we should now really be quiet, two women heard footsteps above us and yelled at the top of their voices.
'Tunajua, kuna mtu anakuja,' was the calm response from above.
'FANYENI HARAKA, TUNASUFFOCATE!' the woman was getting hysterical, and very pissed.
'Ah, Hapana!' retorted the guy.
That evoked laughter. The woman wondered how this 'idiot' had the nerve to say we werent suffocating, while we WERE the ones trapped. The chatterbox beside me didn't help matters by suggesting we write a will. Granted, I laughed at that 'joke'.
    When 20 minutes passed by, now I became concerned. This help wasnt coming. Since my office knew, I went on facebook (Where else). That way I'd reach many people at the same time, with the possibility of sharing my post spreading the message further. Just in case. The response ranged from pieces of advice (okoka sasa, do not panic etc) to downright ridiculous comments ( ile 30 bob yangu ni aje, confess now you never know, bla bla bla)
    30 minutes. I could hear death in the voice of one lady. If we did not get out soon enough....she did not want to finish. By this time, all porous parts of ma skin were pespiring. It was like having steam-bath in suit. No amount of hand-flapping was helping any more. Then suddenly, the lift jerked to life.
'Haiya, what's happening now?'
Help had finally come. I guess some winch was slowly taking us down, in little jerks. The door half opened above us, and with it a rush of oxygen. What relief! But it lasted all of three seconds- the technician slammed it shut again. You can guess what the panicky lady said...
We endured five more down-ward jerks, and the door opened again, this time at our feet. we were hanging at least a metre above the basement floor. Our instruction was to jump to safety. And we did.
    As we walked up the stairs to the open air on the ground-floor, I took time to reflect. Some of the things we ignore, and which we get so free, are so vital to our well being. Like the air we breathe.