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Trapped with Family on New Year's

NOAH ADAMS, HOST:

For every happy reveler on New Year's Eve, for every champagne-drinking partygoer, there are a thousand who watch from the sidelines. Among them is commentator Amy Dickinson.

AMY DICKINSON: Every hellacious New Year's Eve I spend carries along with it the memories of other awful New Year's Eves, and the prospect of horrible New Year's Eves to come. I thought we might have reached the very bottom, funwise, at last year'sevent when we played Bible charades with my yawning extended family. That was until last night.

Last night was the night the elevator broke down. I've only been stuck on an elevator once in my life, years ago in New York when the elevator ground to a halt with me and a certain famous memoir writer on board. He proceeded to freakout, screaming a high-pitched animal scream and caroming around the tiny elevator like a ferret until our colleagues pried open the door and yanked us out. I was left cowering in the corner, more afraid of him than of the prospect of the elevator cable snapping. We'd been in there for 10 minutes.

That night, my mind formed a connection between stuck elevators and screaming ferret people that I haven't been able to shake. And so last night, New Year's Eve, when the elevator in my building broke down, trapping my adolescent daughter inside and me just outside the door, I feared the worst; shrieking, panic, peeing in one's pants, and that's just me. I had no idea what she might be going through.

While waiting for the repairman to respond to his emergency beeper, I planted myself outside the elevator door, determined to calm my trapped daughter by loudly reading through a stack of Christmas cards we'd received over the past two weeks. `Oh, honey, it's from the Smiths!' I yelled. `They wish us a happy and prosperous new year.' She didn't answer.

An hour went by; I feared the worst: asphyxiation, coma, gnawing off her little foot. When we finally pried the doors open, we discovered her sitting on the floor of the elevator dozing off. I had bored her into an altered state.

Because of the high-stakes nature of New Year's Eve, we figured our night had been ruined, and it was. But it was ruined before we got to it. Unlike everyone I see on TV, we didn't have any parties to go to, no champagne, no dancing the year away. Ringing the year out stuck on an elevator seemed just about right.

ADAMS: Writer Amy Dickinson lives in Washington, DC.

It's NPR, National Public Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.