This story starts and ends in an elevator.
Admittedly, it's quite a nice Belgian Art Deco elevator, but not noteworthy other than its tiny size: a mere 1.1 sqm.
If it sounds like I know a lot about this elevator, it's because I was stuck in it for two hours.
With three other people.
At 2 am.
And we were all drunk.
It's my fault, really. I was the one who wanted to take a four-way selfie in the world's smallest elevator.
You can't blame me for being excited. I was in Europe with my childhood bestie who I'd barely seen since she moved to Canada a decade ago, along with my man and my bestie's Argentinian husband.
We'd just had an awesome night celebrating the marriage of another dear friend to a Belgian guy that we all adored. The six of us were about to go house boating the next morning -- if we ever got out of this damn elevator.
We later discovered that sign on the wall says 'Maximum 3 Persons'. In French.
The first thing that happened was my stilettos came off and the boys loosened their ties. Someone farted. Then we called for help.
"Bonjour," the voice says after ringing out for the umpteenth time.
"Uh, bonjour," we say tentatively. "Parles voux English?"
We wait, terrified that the operator will only speak French, but the answer comes: "How can I help you?"
We're told that there are probably too many people in the elevator (correct) and that maybe we're tripping the door laser mechanism. So, on the advice of the bodiless voice filling the elevator, we all smush ourselves to the far wall, which isn't very far at all.
Suddenly I remember a Skype conversation the four of us had before arriving in Belgium.
"The important thing is we'll all be together," I'd said.
"It just feels like so long since we hugged," she'd said.
It's at this point that she bursts into a themed cover of Sade called 'Smooth Elevator' and we all laugh a little too hard. Someone farts again.
About an hour in, my husband announces he really needs to pee, and he probably should have gone back at the wedding.
We call for help again and, this time, the voice sounds a bit concerned. The mechanic has not arrived yet? Belgium is so small, he could literally be anywhere in the entire country and it should only take him an hour to get there.
"When he arrives, you should get very mad at him," the voice says.
No problem, Voice. No problem.
Almost two hours in, the elevator descends into madness, the only descending it's capable of.
There's one thing I haven't declared yet. I have a phobia. A very particular phobia of exhalations. The sensation of breathing someone else's warm, recently expelled breath makes me want to gag, and our tiny elevator could not cope with a splat of spew on the ground.
I'm focusing on my own breath when the guys get into a fierce debate to establish a pecking order of who would be eaten first if help never came.
"I would totally eat all of you guys," the Argentine says with a glint of hunger in his eyes.
We should have gotten kebabs on the way back from the wedding.
My bestie, a yoga aficionado, collapsed herself into a crouching pose and my hubby reminds us we might need to start talking about establishing a corner to pee in.
Bestie's yoga pose.
And then, like magic, we hear the footsteps of a repairman on the other side of the wall.
My bestie springs upright. My hubbie doubles over. The doors open and we start dancing. We hug each other, we hug the maintenance guy (completely forgetting to be mad) and we all sing 'Smooth Elevator'.
This is the beauty of travelling with your friends -- they're the only people that help you transcend the nonsense that should always be expected when travelling. You will misplace your passport, you will get an upset tummy, and you'll most certainly go the wrong way at least twice a day. Who better to accompany you through it all than someone who can make you laugh?
The truth is the luxury houseboat experience that followed was brilliant, but it's the words 'Smooth Elevator' that make us laugh deliriously forever more. Well, that and 'Kunst-Wet' but that's another Belgian bestie travel story.
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