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I don’t know if it’s an age thing, or whether it’s because I live in the woods in France and get more and more out of touch with the real world. I mean when you only have squirrels and birds as neighbors  and your only regular forays into the town are to the supermarket once a week, you do get behind with things … even lifts.

Take for instance last spring. I left hubby to his own devices and nipped off on a cheap Ryanair flight to visit my sister in England for ten days. Arriving at London Stansted airport I looked for directions to coaches in order to continue my journey down to Oxford. Now I never was very good at directions, maps, or remembering routes. Turn me round three times in Marks & Spencer and I have no idea which way leads to the knickers, or to an exit. My short life as a policewoman was a disaster. I mean you really can’t be winding down the window of a cop-car and asking for directions. But that’s another story.

A large sign next to the Hertz car rental desk told me that buses and coaches were down on the lower level. It was a quiet day and no one else was waiting as I pressed the button for the lift. When it arrived it pinged at me and an automated woman’s voice warned me: ‘Doors are opening! Doors are opening!‘ I grabbed my hand luggage and stepped inside then turned back again, as you do, to face the doors. I pressed the button marked zero for the lowest level and waited. Seconds later the voice was back: ‘Doors are closing! Doors are closing!’ Yes, I can see this quite well I sighed, and surely such an impersonal and annoying announcement can only be useful to blind people or to those who haven’t realized that they’re not fully in the lift and are about to become pinioned. The doors shut silently and I descended, stopping seconds later with a gentle thunk. ‘Doors are opening! Doors are opening!’ came the dulcet tones. But the doors didn’t. They stayed firmly shut. I frowned, then pressed a couple of buttons. She told me the doors were closing again. But hang on they haven’t opened yet! I appear to be going back up. Shouldn’t have messed with the buttons. ‘Doors are opening! Doors are opening!’ And here I am back where I started, staring out at the arrivals level. Try again. Press Zero. ‘Doors are close … ‘ Oh do shut up! I’m off back down again, only to have a repeat performance at the bottom. The damn doors are not doing what she says! The ‘Doors are opening’ announcement is a lie! It must be a fault. I stab furiously at the buttons only to send myself heavenwards yet again! Now I’m stressed. Sweating. I could miss my coach. I could go up and down in here for weeks. Before we’ve even reached the top I jab the zero button in hopes of cutting Mrs Dulcet Tones off at the pass, circumventing her monotone, and avoiding her opening of the doors. I don’t want everyone in arrivals seeing me appear yet again! I could imagine the whispered chuckles: ‘That woman’s just come up for the third time!’ ‘Make yer mind up dear!’ I quickly fix a patient but slightly exasperated look across my face, to let them know that my ups and downs are completely the lift’s fault.

‘Phew!’ Reprieve! Thankfully I’ve scotched Mrs Dulcet’s door-opening at the top and we’re going straight to the bottom without stopping. Soft thunk as we arrive. Pleeeeease let me out this time. ‘Doors are opening! Doors are opening!’ Hell and damnation they are NOT! I’m looking right at them and they’re shut tighter than the jaws of a giant clam. I throw my hands in the air in utter frustration and swing around in despair. Oh no! Face reddens. I’m staring out at the coaches and buses area. How was I to know that there were two sets of doors! Why did they cunningly disguise the ones behind me? And how did they get them to open so quietly that I never even heard them? Why wasn’t there a sign on them that said ‘EXIT TO BUSES!’ I thought that metal wall was the back of the lift! I grab my bag and step quickly outside snorting with laughter and embarrassment, a sudden thought flashing through my mind. Did they have security cameras in the lift? I groan, imagining some bored uniformed young man watching my performance with delight and shouting to his mate: ‘Hey Fred look at this dumb old bird! She’s going up and down like a toilet seat at a mixed party!’

So always remember if your lift doors don’t open – look behind you!