Life Inside a Dumbwaiter

I have often said that I am an accumulation of everything I’ve wanted to be. And on this blog article topic, I may be one of the few experts worldwide. Life inside a dumbwaiter? How does one gain the mature wisdom and experience of becoming an expert on life inside a dumbwaiter? I’ll tell you. Get inside. Check that box and move on.

Okay, fair enough. How did I find myself inside of a dumbwaiter you may ask? Seriously, you cannot make these things up. It happened. It happened to me, a long, long time ago. I was a younger man in college and working at my church as a custodian to cover the rent and school bills. Most days were filled with both school and work, tying up sixteen to twenty hours. I lived on little sleep and worked while studying, and studied while working.

The custodial job on point was basically cleaning a church, the naves, a parish hall, bathrooms, Sunday school rooms, and a gymnasium. We were members of a Lutheran church in Northwest Indiana that had a huge affluent congregation which allowed us to provide activities to the younger members of the congregation in our own gym. It also allowed for large social gatherings since it contained a play stage for presentations and a full kitchen that could serve hundred guests. The Sunday school rooms were seated on the first level below the gymnasium. A locked stair case connected the two levels. My custodial/boiler room was also near the staircase on the first level.

One day while at work, I was finishing up my tasks and expecting to be back in my car within minutes. But oh, where were my keys? I always carried a huge ring of keys to cover all the locks at the church. I suddenly realized that I had left them in the kitchen upstairs in the gym. After a quick flight of stairs it registered in my brain that I had left the whole ring of keys on one of the counters in the kitchen. All doors were locked except the boiler room. So, now we get to the dumbwaiter part.

I probably could have taken several other options like call this person or that person, but my mind swarmed the idea of solving this myself and it had no patience for alternatives. The actual idea came to me in an instant, figuring out how to execute it took a bit longer. I found myself in the boiler room searching for a janitor’s broom and a roll of duct tape. Back in the stairwell, I was a third of the way up the flight of stairs where the steps turned 180 degrees. There was a landing there and that is where the dumbwaiter opened at its lowest level. I applied two strips of duct tape to the lower brush end of the broom and leveraged the it between the floor (with tape) and the “UP” button of the dumbwaiter. It went up, so I called it back down. I next tested that it would not respond to button commands while the inner & outer doors to it were open. Success. Now, a moment for myself.

With a deep breath and deeply natural sense of “everything is going to be okay” feeling, I climbed into the open dumbwaiter. It was a tight fit. My knees were in my face. I reached out and closed the outer door. All good. I then reached up and grabbed the inner door handle and pulled it to near center. Just before contact I paused. If this operation failed I would spend at least 18 hours here. It was a Saturday and tomorrow the church would be filled with people. Snap, close, click, the broom worked, the “UP” button was engaged. An electric motor somewhere began to whirl and I ascended.

Dumbwaiters are slow, really slow.








There was a peep hole on both sides of the dumbwaiter. I loaded myself on the north side below and expected to unload myself on the south side in the kitchen above me. I was wholly focused on the south peep hole only seeing blackness until suddenly I abruptly stopped with a sharp stop, motor off. Light. I could see kitchen light. I opened the inner doors and then the outer doors. I had completed my mission. I stepped out of this dumbwaiter like a man stepping on the moon. No audience, no accolades, but a very confident sense of maybe I am a man, an adult, someone who knows how to solve lives’ difficult problems. The only difference between me and a moon mission, was I climbed twenty feet in ninety seconds. What those astronauts did, ahh, you can look that up yourself.

I am an accumulation of everything I’ve wanted to be.

Dumbwaiters are cool.

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2 responses to “Life Inside a Dumbwaiter”

  1. Dolores Avatar

    Good one, a man of many talents!

    1. mikehemphill Avatar

      Thank you! Glad you liked the story. Keep an eye for new ones. I’m planning to publish one every Sunday.

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