45 Stories High Java Fudge Ice Cream Pie Recipe and My Achilles Heel

Friday, May 27, 2011

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Everyone has their own Achilles’ heel – the thing that sends dread seeping through their pores.  That one thing that takes hold of their breath, brings them to their knees and gets their hearts racing like a runaway freight train.  There often  isn’t any rhyme or reason to it.  It just is.   And, it’s terrible.

My Achilles’ heel – the one I spent most of my life, including years of therapy, trying to conquer – is my fear of elevators.  There is no scientific name for it.  However, that doesn’t make it any less real.  Many describe it as a combination of acrophobia (fear of heights) and claustrophobia (fear of closed spaces).    I don’t care how science defines it.  I call it terror. 

tower-of-terror

For years, whenever I have had to ride an elevator,  I have manipulated the situation so that I wouldn’t have to ride alone.  I’ve loitered in more building lobbies than I care to admit, waiting around for someone – anyone -  else to come along and push that “up” button.  I’ve even grabbed people off the street and begged them to ride the elevator up with me!  Oh, the shame…

These past few years, I’ve gotten a lot better about dealing with elevators.  I told myself that if I wanted to start traveling on my own to various blogger conferences, I would have to suck it up and “get over it”.  So, I found a relatively tall building here at home, and practiced going up and down its elevator by myself until I could do it without breaking out in a cold sweat.  After attending several conferences, I began to get pretty good at it.  Sure, each time those big steel doors snapped shut on me, my heart skipped a little beat.  But, I was okay.  Dare I say that I even became a little blasé about it.  Score one for me!

Why am I telling you this?  Good question.  I had intended this to be a lighthearted post about my experience in Atlanta last weekend for BlogHer Food.  I reconnected with several old friends there and made some great new ones too.  I gleaned lots of valuable information from the lineup of talented and generous speakers.  And, though it wasn’t everything I hoped it would be, I had a pretty good time – until I was ready to go home.

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On Sunday morning, after the conference, I went out for a late breakfast with Andrea Meyers from Andrea’s Recipes and Sean Timberlake from Hedonia and Punk Domestics.  We went to Café Intermezzo and had some delicious food and great conversation.  I was feeling pretty content and relaxed about my flight home.  My bags were packed and ready to go and all I had to do once I returned to the hotel was grab a cab to the airport.  Easy peasy, huh?  Hah!

Once back at the Westin, Andrea, Sean and I hopped into the elevator to go to our respective rooms.  There were also several other people with us – two cute, young Chinese girls who didn’t speak any English, and Greg and Annette, a nice couple from Jacksonville visiting with their teenaged daughter.  Their significance will soon be revealed.

Andrea got off on the 18th floor.  Sean and I were riding up to the 29th and 30th floors.  We were chatting with our elevator-mates, when all of a sudden the damn thing stopped.  That’s right.  STOPPED! It took a few seconds for me to grasp what was happening and then…

the-scream

OMG!!!  WE’RE STUCK IN THE ELEVATOR!!!

My Achilles’ heel had just been stabbed.  And, it took me down.

OMG. OMG. OMG.  I kept repeating it over and over in my head like a mantra.  I didn’t know what to do, but I knew that what I didn’t want to do was have a full blown panic attack in front of my fellow prisoners.

Everyone else seemed pretty calm, especially the Chinese girls, who didn’t seem to even realize what had happened.  They stood huddled in a corner, chatting and texting nonstop.   “Were they crazy?” I thought. “Don’t these people realize that we’re trapped in a giant tin can?”

As it turns out, Annette works for Starwood Hotels, the company that owns the Westin.   She immediately took charge, sounded the alarm and pressed the call button for help.  Annette was the epitome of cool, calm and collected professionalism.  The voice of the Westin’s head of security was soon piped in to us, telling us that help was coming.  She unsuccessfully tried to reset the elevator several times.   I had no idea that they could be controlled remotely!   Finally, she was able to get the elevator moving upward.  We went up, up, up to the 45th floor, and then we stopped.    But, the door wouldn’t open.  We couldn’t get it to open, and the Westin’s head of security couldn’t get it to open.  So, there we were, dangling like bait on the 45th floor in a nonfunctioning elevator cab.

My head was swimming and everyone around me started to look like Dali’s Melting Clocks.

melting-clocks

By the way, did you know that hotel security speak for guests stuck in an elevator is “elevator entrapment”?  Neither did I, but I sure do now!

Anyway, I was completely freaking out inside and doing my best not to let it show.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I was all that successful.   My heart was pounding, my palms were sweating and my feet were having a tough time holding me up.  I kept looking over at Sean, who seemed to be doing a lot better than me.  I tried to speak, but the small, weak voice that poured out of my mouth sounded more like that of a three year-old toddler than the polished, self-composed businesswoman I pretend to be.

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The others seemed to get that I was teetering on the edge of hysteria.  Maybe you really can smell fear.  Sean kept patting me on my shoulder, and Greg and Annette just kept me talking – and reminded me to breathe.

“So, where are you from?”

“What did you think of Atlanta?”

“Blogging conference, huh.  How interesting!  What was it like?”

“You’re from Sarasota, you say.  Such a lovely town!  What do you do there?”

“Okay, honey.  We’ll be fine.  Just keep breathing.”

Despite myself, and to my great surprise, I was actually able to carry on a conversation with them.  And, for a few fleeting moments I even forgot that I was a victim of “elevator entrapment”.  Honestly, I don’t know how I would have coped with the situation if Greg and Annette hadn’t been there.  They talked me off the ledge.  I am so thankful that they – and Sean – were there with me.  I shudder to think what might have happened if I had been trapped in there alone!

After a while, the disembodied voice of the security lady told us that the Atlanta fire department had been called and to hang on because help was on the way.  Hang on?!?!  Was she kidding?!?! We were on the 45th floor.  What did she think we were going to do – make a jump for it?

We waited for what seemed like centuries before we heard some signs of life outside.  There were sounds of banging and clanging and scraping metal.  Finally, the elevator doors began to part, and I could see the face of a cute young fireman.  As soon as the opening became wide enough for me to fit through, I leapt, practically right into his arms.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough!   Sean, Annette, Greg, their daughter and the two Chinese girls followed close on my heels.  Our ordeal on the 45th floor lasted for 45 minutes.

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After much hugging, email exchanging and blood pressure checking, we all went our separate ways.  It was already past the time that I had planned to be at the airport.  Seeing how shaken up I was, (and probably worrying about possible legal ramifications), the hotel manager personally escorted me to get my luggage, put me in a taxi (at his expense) and sent me on my way.  I think I saw him breathe a little sigh of relief as the car pulled away.  I know I did.

The first thing I did when I got past airport security was head to the first bar I saw and order a stiff drink.  That, and sign in on Twitter.  Ah, the healing powers of Twitter!  My Twitter stream was already aflutter with tweets about the “elevator incident” and speculation about who the unfortunate victims were.  Sean and I were both sharing the gory details and sympathetic @mentions poured forth.

martini

Fortified by enough vodka to drown a whale, I then boarded my flight home.  In the air, I reflected on the “elevator incident”, and thought of the irony of it all.  What were the odds that, of all the things in the world that could have happened to me, the one that I feared most was what did?   They say that God never gives us more than we can handle.  If that’s true, maybe he was trying to show me that I am stronger than I thought I was.  Or maybe the karmic forces of the universe were just f*%#ing with me. I don’t know.  What I do know is that I was incredibly lucky to have had such caring and compassionate people to help me through the ordeal.

I believe that one of the best cures for a wounded Achilles’ heel is ice cream.  And, pie.  So when I finally got home from Atlanta, I made this ice cream pie.    A great big and tall, decadent, coffee, fudge, ice cream pie.  You’ve heard of mile high pies?  Well, I’m calling mine “45 Stories High Java Fudge Ice Cream Pie”, and I’m dedicating it to Sean, Greg, Annette, their daughter and even the two chirpy, clueless Chinese girls (they were kind of cute, anyway).

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45 responses to 45 Stories High Java Fudge Ice Cream Pie Recipe and My Achilles Heel

  1. On May 27, 2011 at 2:39pm, Janet Rudolph said...

    Love this post.. your story and your illustrations.. not just the unbelievable mile high pie! Adding this to my increasingly long list of recipes to try… thanks

    • On May 27, 2011 at 7:36pm, Susan said...

      Thanks, Janet! This one’s a keeper.

  2. On May 27, 2011 at 2:46pm, Valerie @ City|Life|Eats said...

    Oh no!! I am so sorry this happened but go you or surviving it with such aplomb!

    • On May 27, 2011 at 7:37pm, Susan said...

      Hehe! Thanks! :)

  3. On May 27, 2011 at 2:50pm, Kalynskitchen said...

    I am glad you’re okay (but also very glad I wasn’t there!)

    • On May 27, 2011 at 7:39pm, Susan said...

      That’s right! You were supposed to go out with us. Look at all the fun you missed! ;)

  4. On May 27, 2011 at 3:12pm, kelly said...

    Still haven’t figured out how I missed your tweets on this ordeal, because I saw one of Sean’s. Oh, my. This is quite the retell, and the pie chaser is perfect. Maybe even before that martini! So glad to have met you after all these years, and spend some time with you, Susan. Love your energy!

    • On May 27, 2011 at 7:43pm, Susan said...

      You were probably traveling during my tweets, Kelly. Sean left later than I did and he had several delays on the way. I was on my plane by 1:30 EDT and home by 3:45.

      It was so nice to finally meet you too! You were just as I imagined you’d be – sharp, fun and “sassy”! :D

  5. On May 27, 2011 at 3:26pm, Kathy - Panini Happy said...

    Oh man, what an ordeal! Those elevators scares me so much. So glad you got out of there ok. And OMG, I know Annette!! She’s a longtime friend of my sister’s. You definitely were in capable hands. :-)

    • On May 27, 2011 at 7:44pm, Susan said...

      Wow! I can’t believe you know Annette!!! She and Greg were great! They seem like the nicest people! :)

  6. On May 27, 2011 at 4:47pm, bellini said...

    A mile high pie is the best cure for anything Susan. How absolutely dreadful to have to face your fears, but I am so glad you met with such kindness, I am also glad you had wonderful time at Blogher.

    • On May 27, 2011 at 7:47pm, Susan said...

      Thanks, Val! I’ve actually decided that the whole thing was a blessing in disguise. Now, that I’ve survived it, I somehow don’t feel quite so fearful anymore.

  7. On May 27, 2011 at 4:50pm, Rosa said...

    I also dislike elevators and would hate being trapped in one! Terrifying. I can totally understand the way you felt.

    This pie is awesome! A great treat. The perfect reward after such fright!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    • On May 27, 2011 at 7:49pm, Susan said...

      Thank you, Rosa! It definitely helped to ease the pain. ;)

  8. On May 27, 2011 at 5:17pm, Aimee @ Simple Bites said...

    Holy Moly. My palms are sweaty. Did you know another group got stuck there? It was the Kitchen Generation crew.

    So happy you made it out OK – and this pie is PERFECT.

    • On May 27, 2011 at 7:52pm, Susan said...

      Lol! My palms got sweaty all over again while I was writing this! I did know about the kids getting stuck. It apparently was the same elevator too. It shouldn’t have even been in service.

  9. On May 27, 2011 at 7:27pm, Suze said...

    I’m so sorry that you were trapped, but if the Fates ordained that you had to go through that ordeal, at least they were kind enough to stock the ‘tin can’ with some good folks to help you out. After what you went through, I’d call that pie “single serving.” :^)

    • On May 27, 2011 at 7:54pm, Susan said...

      Lol! I’m with you, Suze. That pie should have been a single serving! :o

  10. On May 27, 2011 at 8:44pm, Beth (OMG! Yummy) said...

    I knew we had a lot in common. I also fear elevators and would have reacted just as you did with the Dali melting clocks but probably worse. And there is very little I love more than a javachip ice cream pie. Too bad 3000 miles separates us but we still have Twitter and our blogs.

    Glad you were with other people and made your flight home. Look forward to seeing you at the next conference and staying in touch until then.

    • On May 27, 2011 at 10:13pm, Susan said...

      Aww! Thanks, Beth. You’re so sweet! I look forward to meeting you too. :)

  11. On May 27, 2011 at 8:48pm, Lana said...

    I can relate to your story, as I am horribly afraid of wasps, even though I have never been stung (I run, leaving my children behind, as soon as I see one – that’s how bad it is:)
    Yes, I was reliving your adventure, but I was cracking up while reading it! Having met you puts it all in the right perspective! I would run for the bar, too! We definitely have to keep in touch – I’ll ride the elevators with you, if you promise to swat the wasps out of my way:)
    Loved this post!

    • On May 27, 2011 at 10:14pm, Susan said...

      Hehehe! You’re too funny. I’d be happy to run interference with the wasps for you. ;)

  12. On May 27, 2011 at 8:52pm, SMITH BITES said...

    OH. EM. GEE. seriously, the tears are ROLLING!!! one of your BEST. STORIES. EVAH!!! and that pie ain’t so bad either. Susan, i can’t wait until we meet again – i’m gonna hug you . . . and then i’m going to laugh!!

    • On May 27, 2011 at 10:16pm, Susan said...

      Thanks! Lol! Can’t wait to see you again either. There never seems to be enough time…

  13. On May 27, 2011 at 9:18pm, Marie said...

    That happened to my husband and I about 10 years ago, we were the only ones in the elevator at the time, an hour later when they got the doors open we were between floors and had to be heisted up by the firemen, it wasn’t a pretty site! So embarasing! We still talk about it and laugh, someday you will too!

    • On May 27, 2011 at 10:20pm, Susan said...

      Oh no! That must have been something! Thank goodness I didn’t have to climb out, or I might still be stuck there! ;)

  14. On May 28, 2011 at 9:32am, Lynn @Mama_Says said...

    You are amazing to tackle/face your fears to pursue your passion. I enjoyed the interspersion of ice cream pie photos and your ATL BlogHerFood recap!

    • On May 31, 2011 at 9:34am, Susan said...

      Thanks! :)

  15. On May 28, 2011 at 3:41pm, Katie said...

    Ohh how scary. Well done for not panicking too much. I like to think I’m ok with travelling in lifts but if I actually got stuck in one it might be a different situation. The other lift people sound very sweet to try and keep you calm. The pie looks just the thing to reboost the sugar levels.

    • On May 31, 2011 at 9:36am, Susan said...

      It’s true that no matter how many times you think about it, you’re still never prepared when it does happen!

  16. On May 29, 2011 at 11:15am, Karen@Mignardise said...

    Oh wow…that is some story Susan! First, I love how you put in the descriptive artwork. Secondly, I totally get the panic thing. I’m often like that when I fly and have to rely on the kindness and patience of complete strangers to keep me calm. When the event is over, celebrating with huge, delicious dessert is absolutely the right thing to do.
    I’m so disappointed I couldn’t make it to the conference. I so wanted to meet you!

    • On May 31, 2011 at 9:38am, Susan said...

      Thanks, Karen! I’m disappointed about not meeting you too! Hopefully, soon. :)

  17. On May 29, 2011 at 9:46pm, Andrea Meyers said...

    Susan, after that ordeal I’d say the stiff drink and pie–that pie, oh that pie–were definitely needed. I’m so glad you all were ok and that you had some wonderful people to help get through it. I’m so glad we got to meet up last weekend!

    • On May 31, 2011 at 9:39am, Susan said...

      Thanks, Andrea! I really enjoyed catching up with you again too!

  18. On May 30, 2011 at 8:10am, Rachel (S[d]OC) said...

    *HUGS* Sorry that happened to you. Remember it could have been worse. What if on top of everything else, you had to go to the bathroom. That’s my biggest fear. I have a bladder the size of a pea (and there is a reason I chose that particular vegetable) and I’m always afraid of being stuck somewhere without a bathroom.

    Glad you had great people to get you through it. I’m glad you had an ice cream pie too. I know making (and especially eating) one of those would cheer me up! Any old trip up to the third floor will be a piece of cake now!

    • On May 31, 2011 at 9:41am, Susan said...

      Oh, gad! I’m so glad THAT thought never entered my mind! What a disaster it would have been! :o

  19. On May 30, 2011 at 11:25am, David said...

    Those elevators kind of scared me too! And although I didn’t have anywhere near your kind of experience, I felt like I needed a stiff drink more than once after I hopped off, too…

    • On May 31, 2011 at 9:43am, Susan said...

      Yes, David. Those were the “crankiest” elevators I’ve ever seen. Maybe the Westin should start equipping each of them with well-stocked bars! ;)

  20. On May 30, 2011 at 7:41pm, ciaochowlinda said...

    Yikes, that sounds like a real nightmare. My achilles heel is crossing bridges. Your descriptions, your photos are great and of course this decadent dessert is just what was called for – after the stiff drink of course.

    • On May 31, 2011 at 9:48am, Susan said...

      Oh, I hate bridges too! I refuse to drive over the Sunshine Skyway to St. Pete/Clearwater by myself. I’ve actually taken the roundabout route up through Tampa, which adds about 40 extra minutes to the trip!

  21. On May 30, 2011 at 9:05pm, Jennifer (Savor) said...

    Thank You for having dinner with me Saturday night! you made me smile and I loved walking with someone else who did run ‘run walk’. Hope you are smiling….well, I know you are while you eat this pie

    • On May 31, 2011 at 9:50am, Susan said...

      Thank YOU, Jennifer! I had a great time and really enjoyed hanging out with you. Hope we get to do it again soon! :D

  22. On May 31, 2011 at 10:57pm, Anne Galivan said...

    I do not have a fear of elevators but I have made it a policy not to get in an elevator if I need to use the bathroom. I always think, “What if I get in an elevator and it gets stuck AND I need to use the bathroom?” So I always use the bathroom before I get in an elevator…or I use the stairs!

    This pie looks absolutely fantastic!

    Oh, one other thought…I think people generally have a lot more compassion for our fears than we think. We all have fears and I have experienced my share of anxiety attacks so I can feel your pain. I think if we (and I need to remind myself too!) can remember that everyone has fears and not be afraid to admit that we are afraid it’d be good for all concerned!

  23. On June 02, 2011 at 12:41am, rachel said...

    O. M. G.

    i am not the least bit afraid of elevators (snakes! snakes are my achilles heel–i nearly hyperventilate just looking at a picture of one!) but that story scared even me. glad you were able to keep your cool (and celebrate with a cocktail and some ice cream afterwards!)

  24. On June 03, 2011 at 7:54am, Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

    I, too, am terribly afraid of heights, and wasn’t even all that crazy about having a room on the 27th floor at the conference. I take a deep breath every time I step into the elevator. I’m so sorry you had this experience, but at least you weren’t in there alone.

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Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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