Friday, February 11, 2011

Laura Meets a Ghost and Gives Advice

We were talking at our staff meeting today about our elevator, which needs a part, and that led, of course, to Projections of What Could Go Wrong with an Elevator in a Library. Naturally, hilarity ensued.

You see, our elevator doesn't have far to go. If it ever fell, it would drop one storey, smash into the ground, but there is hardly enough of a drop to build up any real velocity. Not like if the elevator in the Sears Tower suddenly went. That would be messy. If our elevator fell, it would cause bruises and maybe whiplash, but nothing else, we agreed.

"Yeah, to the little kids and old people in the elevator," Work Rachel* countered.

That made me think. Little kids and old people aren't the only ones who use that elevator.

"When we had the flood," another coworker said. "A woman who used to work here, she always used the elevator, got in and rode downstairs. And when the elevator reached the bottom floor, it splashed."

That made me think about us.

You see, if we were in the elevator, we'd be in there with a cart full of books, which would quickly change from books into projectiles when the elevator fell. And then we would die, because that's what happens when you're brutally beaten by Nicholas Sparks novels.

In the library I used to work in, there was an elevator. It went between three floors. But it didn't always do that, because there wasn't always an elevator. Once, there was no elevator, but people thought maybe there should be. So money changed hands, equipment moved in, and an elevator shaft was constructed. Then an elevator was put in the elevator shaft. Or maybe the elevator shaft was built around the elevator...I don't know how elevators are made. What do you expect? Science? Construction advice? Elevators just exist. And we're all glad they do. Sometimes.

But the new elevator wasn't working just right, so an elevator guy went inside the elevator shaft down in the basement, where the periodicals lived and where I used to work, and he stood there in the elevator shaft, but then the elevator was there too, and that was how I met my first ghost.

Well, maybe not REALLY a ghost, but that's what everyone said, that the elevator guy haunted the elevator. And then the whole library, because why not? It makes for a better story.

You all know me pretty well by now. You know I'm a super-freak-girl who thinks the Pooping Man is coming back for revenge after that less-than-flattering blog post, who thinks that Satan himself is going to drag her down to Hell because it's wrong to play with your shoes during the Children's Sermon when you should be listening, who honestly thought that one wavering lantern was going to burn the entire house down around her and her family, with lots of screaming and mile-high flames, leaving burned-then-frozen corpses for the firefighters to discover the next day, because the family home is in the middle of nowhere and the tiny volunteer fire department is miles away, and they were too snowed in that night to be able to rescue anyone before they died.

Naturally, when I was told a relatively innocent, if sad, story about Elevator Guy and his Potential Apparition, it developed from a tiny anecdote told to pass the time into a full-on belief that my elevator was possessed, just because it didn't work very well.

When I rode the elevator, I would press the down button, and it would do NOTHING. Then I would hit the button a couple more times, until finally it decided to move, and then I would go downstairs.

See the problem? Personifying inanimate objects? It was only a matter of time before the elevator quirk combined with the Story of Gruesome Elevator-Related Death to create the ghost that maybe almost-certainly haunts the library to this very day.

See, when I rode up on the elevator, no problems. And when I rode from the top floor to the basement or from the top floor to the ground floor, no problem either. The only time the elevator didn't work was when I tried to go from the ground floor to the basement, THE EXACT ROUTE THE ELEVATOR TOOK WHEN ELEVATOR GUY DIED.

All of that information sloshed around in my brain for about an hour, and then it spit out this story: Elevator Guy was still in the elevator, and he didn't want anyone else to get hurt the way he did, so he was keeping the elevator from coming down and maybe killing someone.

I read a lot as a kid. You probably can't tell, or anything...

A lot of the books I read were ones popular with fellow kids, only I was reading the books the eighth graders loved when I was in first grade, instead of at the same time my fellow first graders would read them. One of the books was Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn, another was The Ghost Wore Gray by Bruce Coville**. Great books--you should read them. But they were ghost stories. And I was...overimaginative.*** So, naturally, I picked up a few pointers that I remembered that day in the elevator when all the pieces clicked into place.

1. If there is a ghost, don't freak out.

2. Also, expect cold spots. Bring a sweater, just in case.

3. Ghosts are there for a reason. Usually, they want help. If that is the case, you should probably find a girl between the ages of nine and thirteen, because they usually are able to fix these sort of problems.

4. If there is no girl to be brought in to help the ghost, that means you are supposed to, because someone has to be the protagonist. You've likely been in training for this your entire life.

5. You should dig around in old records and learn about your potential ghost. Then you will find an old photograph, and it will be scary because the face in the picture will look exactly like the ghost you saw and maybe even exactly like your neighbor or the girl you just met. But don't worry, your ghost can't really hurt you. It can only make you need a sweater and move stuff around, maybe.

6. It probably doesn't even want to hurt you.

7. If it did, it wouldn't really be able to. So don't freak out.

8. Freaking out won't solve anything. Also, it will make it harder to accomplish goal #3.

9. Try talking to the ghost. If it can talk back to you, that's handy. If not, look for a diary an old bundle of letters saved in a trunk somewhere. Or talk to the guy you work with or your neighbor or the girl next door, because they are probably related to the ghost in some way, and will be able to help.

10. If you find a relative to the ghost, be extra nice to them, because they are likely going to be A) Your new best friend or B) Your new boyfriend (or girlfriend).

11. If helping the ghost means you've changed time in some way (Time Windows by Kathryn Reiss, Stonewords by Pam Conrad), your new best friend might not really remember you, or what happened. Also, you might not remember. But that's okay, because you have a new best friend.

12. Fix the ghost's problem, and then have a touching moment where you say goodbye and the ghost goes to heaven. Then go back to shelving magazines, or start your new school because the summer is now over.

Naturally, I started talking to my ghost.

"It's okay," I would say. "No one is working on the elevator today, and I just need to go downstairs."

The creepy thing was this: If I talked to the ghost, THE ELEVATOR WOULD WORK ON THE FIRST TRY.And that was when I decided the elevator was maybe probably really potentially haunted, but it was okay and actually a good added safety feature.

*I know a LOT of Rachels. And a Rachael. Work Rachel is not the Rachael who patiently listens to my knitting rants and obsessive adoration of my glasses and the jam she made me. See the name spellings? Two different people.

**Super-glad Bruce Coville and his wife got out of Egypt safely. I LOVE YOU BRUCE. Please keep writing books, and I will continue reading them, even though my reading level is "too high" to read "kids books." Like I've ever listened to anyone about that sort of thing. 

***And I still am. I'd have to be, if I think my house is about to burst into flames, leaving a charred corpse behind, without our neighbors ever noticing. They live, like, fifty feet away! They'd see the flames. I hope.


  1. I totally believe you.

    I met Bruce Coville once!

  2. He is amazing. I love him. His books are amazing.

  3. I always used the stairs if I could. That elevator really was something else.

  4. But I had CARTS of MAGAZINES! I couldn't carry the carts downstairs!