Next month Celina and I will celebrate nine years together, although last week we celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary. Marking important events gives us a framework on which to build our lives, to be corny, putting flesh on the skeletal outline of the predictable sequence of ‘birth ….. marriage(s)…. death’.
Living in the half-life of Covid, we decided to have a night in a hotel, having been assured that it was safe! And it was! There were hand sanitisers everywhere and masks were obligatory in the public areas, except at the Terrace restaurant’s socially distanced tables when eating; at least they recognised that difficulty.
In our room where one might expect a box of tissues there was a box of masks; the mini-bar and coffee machine were wrapped in a paper that indicated they had been sanitised. The mini bar price list, hotel facilities and even the menu for supper were accessible through your smart phone camera.
Back on the Terrace again for breakfast. I imagine we may have seen the death of the ubiquitous ‘Breakfast Buffet’, those tables groaning with every conceivable need for the famished guest. I remember a Norwegian one in Voss where fish was predominant or Far Eastern ones focused on fresh exotic fruit. Today one guest’s cough and the whole table would need to be consigned to the incinerator! It was a misty morning and Estoril and its Forte da Cruz looked rather enchanting.
Later Celina and I returned to the apartment on Avenida General Carmona (Note 1)
As an aside, for some reason known only to the Portuguese authorities, the house numbers on this four hundred metre street are being renumbered. Previously they had run from No 1, obviously, at the bottom with even numbers on one side and odd on the other, to the top, No 26. Now, No 16 for instance has been made 292, two hundred and ninety two, No 14 two hundred and forty (240!) And why would you leave the old numbers up? Go figure!
At the bottom of the street stands one of the largest casinos in Europe, not some embryonic housing complex …… that I might understand.
Having dropped off our overnight bag we headed for the pool as the sun, which had been reluctant to make an appearance when we had been at the hotel, had changed its mind! An hour and a half later we made our way inside and entered the lift. The pool is at -2 (Note 2); we needed No 1 …… and we both needed the loo! We pressed the button, the doors closed, and the lift ascended ……. a few feet …… and shuddered to a stop ….. briefly ….. before going back down with a bump. We pressed the floor button again; nothing happened! We pressed other floor buttons in that vain hope that that would make a difference …… but all we got was a row of red circles but no moving jackpot. The lift was made by the reputable company, Otis, and designed to hold 8 people or 630kgs; surely I hadn’t put on that much weight since lockdown on 23rd March?
Celina is Latin by temperament and by looks so tends to get excited very quickly, although we had both realised we were stuck in a lift, neither going up nor down. She pressed the button with a ‘bell’ symbol a number of times and eventually the emergency control room answered.
A team was dispatched. We also banged on the doors to attract the attention of others in the building. (Note 3) It was getting warm inside and we both began to sweat. Internally I was trying to remember which films had people stuck in a lift and what the outcome was. Were we going to see Bruce Willis or Jason Stathan pull the doors open with their bare hands, the aluminium crumpling under their efforts …… or would we have to wait until Jorge or Costa arrive, puffing on their cigarettes and pulling up their blue, stained work trousers?
We both wanted the loo ….. and as the minutes ticked by there was little else that took our focus away. We did an inventory; a small empty tonic water bottle and two rather damp pool towels. If push came to shove, towel or bottle, or …….
Celina got a bit emotional, imagining we were going to be stuck for hours, but by now her loud banging on the doors had finally attracted her family’s attention (note2). Camila and Cecilia arrived outside; sort of comforting to know but it did nothing to relieve our bladder pressure!! By now I was dripping with sweat as if I was in our hot yoga studio, not a metal box stuck somewhere between floors. True to their promise, Jorge and Costa eventually arrived, 5 o’clock stubble and blue trousers in evidence, used a key to allow them to open the doors manually (no need for Willis or Stathan), and we were out in the daylight; the relief, both emotional and physical, was palpable. Not a pleasant experience although this is not a tall building; imagine being stuck in a lift in, for example, The Shard in London, with its 95 floors. Not daring to take the lift, we raced up three flights of the stairs to find a loo – always a difficult manoeuvre when your bladder is full!
Life on the edge!
Richard 26th August 2020
Note 1 General Antonio Carmona was President of Portugal from 1926 until his death in 1951. He appointed Antonio Salazar as prime minister and allowed him to run Portugal as an authoritarian dictatorship whilst his own powers became largely ceremonial. Just over twenty years after his death, in 1974, the Carnation Revolution saw the establishment of a modern democracy. Compare with Spain’s dictator General Franco who ruled his country from 1939 to his death in 1975.
Note 2 For other example of odd decisions by architects, the entrance level to the building is -1, the first floor is 0 and the top 1!!
Note 2 You could imagine someone in one of the apartments hearing a muffled banging noise and them thinking it was builders down the street …… and carrying on doing whatever they were doing!