Likewise, if we fill a gap in our knowledge with something random, we can use logic to test its worth. Logic is the taste-tester of the brain. However, people often don’t bother to use logic. Even worse, fear can mitigate our ability to use logic properly.
Take me, for example. I am claustrophobic. I don’t like small toilets, rooms without windows, narrow hallways, helmets, space ships (I assume)… Sometimes I don’t like being stuck inside my own epidermis. My least favourite things to be stuck inside are elevators.
Once, I went out with a friend for late-night Chinese. We headed into the brightly-lit diner. It had been a long trip there, and urine pressed against the inside of my bladder, informing my brain I needed a pee. I told this to the security guard outside the restaurant, although not in so many words. He pointed to the elevator. I asked if there was any other way of getting to the toilet. No. Apparently fire hazards were not a main concern for this restaurant.
I told my friend that I would be brave. I would challenge myself. I would confront my phobia – yes! Me strong! Me conquer all!
The confidence I’d placed in myself was severely misplaced.
We walked into the elevator. Already my heart rate was trying to beat itself towards a world record. The elevator was relatively big, although I still felt like I was stuck inside a lunch box. The doors closed before me. The room immediately shrunk from a lunch box to a snuff box.
I closed my eyes to shut out the sight of warping walls. Intense fear makes things warp, for some reason. It isn’t a fun sensation.
I was in there for about one hour, which probably translates to twenty seconds in real-time. I opened my eyes. Surely we’d reached the preciously expansive floor containing a toilet by now. I turned around, and found myself alone.
My friend had disappeared from the elevator!
My stomach dropped a lot quicker than an elevator can. The unfortunate thing about being claustrophobic is that, if you do get stuck somewhere, there is nowhere to run. The thing you fear is the very thing that will keep you inside the fear. Of course, I didn’t think to press buttons to move the elevator along its trajectory. I forgot to look for the help button. Indeed, I did not examine the inside of the elevator at all. I just sort of crumpled to the ground. And this is when I became utterly irrational.
In my memory, my friend had walked into the elevator with me. Yet, here I was, in the elevator by myself. This incongruity could only lead to one conclusion: I had gone insane. I’d never been with my friend in the elevator. I’d imagined him stepping in alongside me. I’d imagined the comforting sounds he’d been making in the background. Perhaps I’d imagined the whole night. Perhaps he didn’t even exist. I had gone stark, raving mad. If I ever escaped, I’d be carted off on a train labelled “One-Way Train for Crazy People – Next Stop, Loony Town.”
Were these the logical conclusions? No. Were these the conclusion my mind was using to fill in my missing knowledge? Unfortunately, yes.
I was whimpering on the floor when doors opened behind me. I think I made another world record, this time for how fast a person can exit an elevator. I sunk back to the floor in the beautifully big room, basking in the space. Oh, joyous space! I was utterly confused as to why doors had appeared on the back wall of the elevator, but was currently too relieved to contemplate the phenomenon.
"What are you doing? Are you okay?” my friend asked. He WAS real!
“Where did you go?!” I wailed pathetically.
“I stepped out of the elevator and thought you were stepping out behind me.”
“But you went out the back…” I said, still confused.
“The elevator has two doors,” he explained gently.
Two doors! TWO DOORS! Two doors that could be clearly seen if one only opened one’s eyes and looked properly.
For all my trouble, I couldn’t pee. My bladder had lost its vote on what should be listed on my body’s to-do list. I was consumed by one thing only: I had to go back down the elevator.
I can’t remember re-entering the snuff box, but I made it back down. I do remember the security guard looking at my wet face in confusion. Perhaps he thought I’d put the wrong end in the toilet. I didn’t care. I wasn’t embarrassed. There was no room for that bollocks. I sat down and focused on doing that thing… what’s it called? Ah, yes. Breathing.
I haven’t been in an elevator since. I plan on being brave again one day. Next time, I hope to use my logic as an iron fist. Small spaces can’t eat you. Small spaces have no teeth. Small spaces don’t have hands to strangle you or a brain to plot against you.
Most importantly, though, sometimes small spaces have two doors.