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The Elevator Incident at RESNA 1988 in Montreal

(Not to be confused with the Bedford Incident, a movie in which two ships were sunk during the Cold War.)

At the RESNA 1988 Conference in Montreal there was a dinner event at the site of the Montreal World's Fair in 1967.

The entire evening was one of the strangest in many ways for many people who attended - more on that later.

Even getting to the venue was a problem. There was a line of buses outside the conference hotel that were to take us there. The buses did not leave on time. There was some confusion of where to go and how to get there. Apparently several buses "got lost" enroute. My bus circled McGill University before getting its bearings.

The building the event was in was probably used very little since the expo. It was a very open atrium-style structure. One thing I remember is that there was a flight of stairs that were hung by cables from the ceiling of the building. And there weren't any vertical pieces of the stairs. You could see through the stairs where the vertical pieces should have been. It felt weird and a bit scary - the equivalent of a rope bridge over a river gorge. I am sure the effect was more pronounced for others.

I recall the floor that the dinner was on had a center stage and a bunch of tables around it. We had a boxed chicken dinner.

Someone encouraged me to ask Alan Newell to tell a story / poem he had written. I think it was about a monster eating someone. (Somebody help me out here.) And I also recall there were a bunch of RESNA members who were celebrating their 50th birthday that year. I believe Dave Law wrote and sang a song (with guitar accompanyment) that poked good-natured fun at them.

There was some confusion about when it was time to leave and when the busses would be available to take us back home.

Rather than walk down those stairs, a group of us decided to take the elevator down. It was a small one and I recall the following people crowded into it: Dave Law and his guitar, Robert Van Etten, Marcia Decker (from the VA) and her husband, Aimee Luebben, and her student Robyn Oeth, and I (13 in all). It turned out the elevator was built for just a couple of people - perhaps for folks in wheelchairs - and had not been used or maintained in years. It got stuck between floors. Luckily, it was a glass elevator and the remaining people at the event could see our plight. With a combination of sign language and backwards writing on the glass with lipstick, we were able to communicate with the folks on the stairs who could see us - including Jessica Pederson.

It was probably 45 minutes later that we were finally freed. Although there was no obvious panic, one of the trapped was feeling a little claustrophobic and was trying to suck fresh air through the crack in the door.

I am not sure how we got back to the hotel, but a bunch of use were contemplating going to a bar to "settle our nerves". While there were open bars, they were just too noisy and crowded and I guess we just went back to the hotel.

I found out later that other people missed the bus and had to take a cab home. And there were some that actually walked home several miles (or several kilometers).

I hope others can bring to light details that I have forgotten and contribute their experiences.

Dave Jaffe