If ever you feel that you're having a bad day, consider the plight of Nicholas White.
White was working late and decided to take a smoke break. After he finished his break, he got back into one of the elevators in the building and pressed the button for the 43rd floor. He would remain trapped in that elevator for the next 41 hours unable to escape and with precious little to occupy his mind.
I've been reading a book called The Black Swan whose major thesis is that a certain category of rare event can have a disproportional impact. White's case seems to be one such "black swan". Getting trapped in an elevator for nearly two solid days was something that was impossible to anticipate but the impact on his life was enormous. Traumatized by the event, he essentially quit his job, engaged in an ill-advised attempt to litigate for damages (which yielded only a pittance) and has been mainly unemployed for nearly fifteen years since then.
Of course, one could argue that he should have shaken the experience off, or that another person may have been able to cope better, or that the choices he made, after the event, were unwise, but the fact remains that if he had called in sick that day, or if the elevator had been maintained better, or if security had been more observant about monitoring the security cameras in the elevators, or if he had simply taken a different elevator, the course of his life would have been profoundly different than what it was.
It is a paradox that we all face. A prudent person tries to plan for the future but the very essence of the future is that it is unpredictable and that a single event can render any amount of planning moot.
The New Yorker has the full story of Wright's experience (in addition to lots of ancillary information about elevator technology and safety) as well as a compelling time lapse video of Wright's actual ordeal.
Elevator image courtesy of Flickr user annia316 ღ