This is one l-o-n-g post. Grab your knitting and settle back. It will be worth it, I promise.
I returned home late afternoon Friday after attending the three-day conference in Appleton that I mentioned on Wednesday. I'll tell you about that later. Right now I want to tell you about My MacGyver Moment(s) that occurred when I arrived home.
Smokey is working in Minneapolis this weekend and will not be here until Tuesday, so I am home alone. Matthew is coming up this weekend, but he is helping a friend move on Saturday morning and wouldn't be here until late Saturday. (/setting the stage)
When I got home I parked my car carefully in front of the garage. I had done more walking in past three days at the conference than I have in the past three months, so my bad ankle was a little sore. I decided that it would be smart to put my suitcase and other paraphernalia (tote bag with knitting, a couple Christmas gifts I picked up on the way home, two days' mail, and the ten or twelve library books that I had just picked up on the way home) on the elevator and send them up that way, instead of lugging everything up the stairs as I usually do.
Let me tell you about our elevator.
When we remodeled and added on to this house, we tried to take into consideration the fact that we were both in our fifties and wanted to live here until we were carried out feet first. In other words, we tried to make our changes as handicapped-friendly as we could. I got materials from the library on accessible design. All the doors in the addition are a little wider than usual -- some even as wide as 42" -- to accommodate a possible future wheelchair. (You can be sure that after I broke my ankle, we were patting ourselves on the back for our foresight.) All the door handles are levers rather than knobs to make it easier for a potential future arthritis-crippled wrist. Light switches are a little lower than usual, so they are easily reachable from a wheelchair.
I also considered the problems of carrying groceries, etc., up the stairs (remember? the second floor here is the main floor) for the next twenty or thirty years, so I suggested, partially in jest, that we put in some kind of dumbwaiter thing. Smokey immediately started scheming how to build one using garage door openers mounted vertically in a small shaft.
A few weeks later we were at an auction and discovered our solution: a warehouse freight-handling lift, a piece of equipment designed to lift thousand-pound pallets eighteen feet in the air. It was kind of like the business end of a forklift, but with a small platform where the fork would be. $125 later, it was ours. We have always intended that when the house was finished, we would build a larger platform on the lift, with half walls for safety, but that hasn't happened yet since we haven't finished the house.
We modified our house plans to locate two "closets" directly above and below each other, with no floor between them and the lower one opening into the garage. Once the addition was built, we moved the lift into the shaft. Ta-da! The construction workers liked it, too; they used it to move tools and supplies up to the second floor instead of carrying them up the stairs.
*Elevator* shaft from the second floor:
It is not a perfect solution, though. The lift is not designed to have a control at both upper and lower levels like a real elevator; instead, it has one control on a long, coiled cord that the warehouseman would use to operate the lift from the ground. In our situation, if the lift is in the garage at ground level and we are on the second floor with boxes of stuff we want to load into the car, we have to walk downstairs to get the control and raise the lift. If we are downstairs in the garage with bags of groceries and the lift is at the second floor, we have it a little easier; since the "down" button on the control doesn't work, we lower the lift by pulling on a rope attached to a lever at the base. This rope is only accessible at the lower, garage level. Eventually Smokey will either fix the electronics in the control, or, more likely, put the rope on a pulley system so we can reach it from either up- or downstairs.
The lift was invaluable while I was incapacitated because the platform was j-u-s-t big enough to accept the wheelchair. There was a menacing gap of about twelve inches between the platform and the second floor door jamb, but Smokey found a piece of 1/4"-thick sheet steel that wedged in securely and bridged the gap perfectly. He was able to roll me in my wheelchair in and out of the *elevator* easily. (/background)
Back to late Friday afternoon.
I loaded my stuff onto the lift platform and decided that I would ride up to save climbing the stairs on my over-worked and sore ankle. I grabbed the control and up we went... (cue ominous music)
The lift shuddered slightly and stopped.
It would not go up nor down.
There was no one else home. We have no neighbors within shouting distance. I had my cell phone, but there is no service at our house. I was stuck on an *elevator*, between floors, on a platform roughly three feet square with a six-foot drop on three sides, with no one to help me.
I was totally on my own.
I had two choices: stay on the lift in the unheated elevator shaft for the next twenty-four hours, or try to get out. I chose door #2.
My first idea was to somehow climb into the second floor. I was able to throw my Noro striped scarf up, loop it over the door handle of the second floor door, pull the handle enough to unlatch the door, and push the door open. The lift was at a height where my upper chest was level with the second floor, so I knew I would have to stand on something to get high enough.
At this point I would like to remind you that I am no spring chicken, nor an athlete, nor even physically fit. I am nearly sixty, I have a recently broken ankle still in a cam boot, I am overweight, and I am dreadfully out of shape. Pulling myself up to that second floor would be well-nigh impossible.
But I tried.
First, I stood on a gift box of Feeney's Irish Cream liqueur, purchased on the way home as a Christmas gift. One box = not strong enough = collapsed box. Two boxes, side by side = strong enough, but not tall enough.
Clearly, I was going to have to [somehow] stand on my suitcase. I won't describe the various arrangements I tried, but suffice to say nothing worked. The only good thing was that I neither lost the suitcase nor myself over the side of the platform nor injured myself in the attempts.
I spent a fair bit of time between attempts sitting on my suitcase and thinking. If I tried A, what could go wrong? Would B be safer? What about C? and so forth. The whole time I vacillated between whether it would be safer/easier/more likely to work if I directed my efforts toward reaching the second floor or instead tried to get down to the first floor. I could see the release rope at the bottom, but I had grave doubts as to whether pulling it straight up, as I would have to do, would actually pull the lever far enough to allow the elevator to descend.
In order to pull myself onto the second floor I really needed to be able to get high enough that I could get my center of gravity over or almost over the door jamb, and that Just.Was.Not.Happening. Even when I got my upper body onto the second floor, there was nothing to grab hold of to pull myself the rest of the way, even supposing I were strong enough to do so.
After a number of unsuccessful attempts to get up high enough to pull myself onto the second floor, I decided to try the downward alternative. The first problem was how to get hold of the rope. Knitting bag to the rescue!
Was there ever a more appropriately named knitting bag?
A stitch holder bears a certain resemblance to a fishhook -- have you ever noticed that?
My first "fishing" expedition involved using a stitch holder tied onto a long strand of sock yarn. I soon discovered that one strand of sock yarn was not strong enough. Boing! it broke, and my stitch holder/hook fell to the floor. Damn.
Back to going up to get out.
More non-successes, but happily, also more non-disasters. Eventually, though, I decided that there was little to no chance that I was going to be able to hoist myself up to the second floor.
Back to going down to get out.
I considered sliding over the edge of the platform, hanging from it, and dropping the remaining distance, which I calculated would be two to three feet. Several problems with this approach: I wasn't sure I could slither through the space between the platform and the wall, and I was pretty sure I could not maneuver myself around to actually hang from the platform without falling. Plus, I knew I would re-injure my ankle if I dropped that far.
Clearly, that had to be The Method Of Last Resort.
I had checked my knitting kit to no avail for a second stitch holder after I lost the first one. Now I checked again to see if there was anything else that might work -- a safety pin, a twistem, anything.
Do you see what I saw, cleverly camouflaged by the row counter?
Yep, another, smaller stitch holder. I tried again, this time tying three strands of yarn to the hook.
The rope that I needed to pull ran from its lever, across the bottom of the shaft, and under the closed door to the garage. I knew I had to get that door open in order for this plan to work, but the door handle was waaay out of reach. After sitting down on the platform -- no easy feat in itself -- and sliding myself nearly over the edge of it, I was just barely able to use my foot to push the door handle far enough to unlatch the door. Success #1!
I was able to hook the rope with my fishing apparatus fairly easily and pull it up, but I was not able to pull it high enough. Remember that 1/4" steel plate that we used to bridge the gap? I had used it in my attempts to get up to the next floor, and in the process it had dropped over the side of the platform and crashed deafeningly to the bottom of the shaft. Even worse, it had landed on top of the rope, making it impossible to pull the rope up to where I could reach it. The other end of the rope seemed to be encumbered by something in the garage, and there was just not enough slack for it to reach up to me.
With my second fishhook, though, I was able to hook the first one on its broken strand of yarn and retrieve it. Success #2! I attached it to three strands of yarn and tried to use it to move the plate steel.
It slipped, it bent, it didn't work at all. But somehow, I don't exactly remember how, I was able to use my first fishing hook and line to jiggle the rope enough that the plate slipped off. Yippee, success #3!
I pulled the rope high enough to grab it, pulled it, and the elevator began to descend. I lowered it enough that I could step off. It was so easy it was anti-climactic.
And the rest is history. Yay, me!