Sunday, June 16, 2019 07:14

Dead Body In The Elevator Shaft


So on Monday, I wrote a macabre story about death. Coincidentally also on Monday, in my Facebook feed, I saw the following question asked…


For me, the answer was clear…a dead body. If you’ve ever smelled one, you’d never forget it.

I didn’t post that answer in that Facebook thread (for obvious reasons). However, since the story behind the answer is linked in so many ways to my last post, I think it’s worth telling.

From 1992-95, I lived in Downtown Portland in the Ione Plaza apartment building located on the edge of Portland State University. While I was living there, one of the other apartment residents went missing. Notices were posted, news stories were written, but nothing came of the search, so the incident was forgotten by most until…

I lived on the sixth floor of the building and I had to take a very slow moving elevator to get down either to the lobby or to my car in the garage. One morning, I hit the elevator button to get to work. I waited for the elevator to show up and once the door opened, I encountered a scene that will be etched in my mind for as long as I live.

In the elevator was an attractive woman that I’d seen around and exchanged smiles with. Medium height, pale skin, brown hair, brown eyes that shone in the harsh fluorescent lights of the elevator. We knew each other by sight…she smiled at me and I smiled at her.

Also in the elevator was the most appalling stench I’ve ever encountered in my life. I know now the smell of death…it is unique and easily identifiable. In that moment, I didn’t. By the time my mind could process the smell, the elevator doors were closed and we were descending to the lower floors of the building.

Now talking about quandaries…my “single and very much looking for someone self” really wanted to use the slowness of the elevator descent to get to know this woman, hopefully impress her, and perhaps try to ask her out. However, there was a slight problem…the overpowering smell of death had come between us. So, what did we chat about on the elevator ride? The smell. How bad it was. How really really really really bad it was. She got off at the lobby and I got off in the basement. I don’t believe I ever saw her again.

In the moment, I didn’t connect the missing person to the bad smell (likely because it happened over a month previous) and I didn’t report it to anyone. However, by the time I got back from work, it was pretty clear what had transpired. The missing person was partying on the roof with friends and fell down the elevator shaft but nobody saw it happen, so his friends assumed he just left. I saw the story on the TV news the next day. 12 years later, a similar incident happened at the same building.

I watch a lot of “arty” films which the great majority of people can’t identify with in any way, shape or form. I would love to see what Godard or Antonioni could have done with this elevator scene. In a film, it could have been transformed into some sort of strong social commentary. In real life, it just stunk.


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