At the beginning of September I attended my first lunch/cocktail party given by my dream publisher. I was pretty excited and a tad nervous, too, but I was lucky to attend with a dear friend of mine who has been an author with this publisher for many years. My friend decided this was going to be a really special and memorable day for me. It was certainly that, and for more reasons than anticipated.
We took the train to London and headed to the venue close to London Bridge. We had a great lunch and I spent most of the time fan-girling and meeting authors I’d read for many years. They were all really lovely and so welcoming. Then it came time for the cocktail party held across the road at the publisher’s HQ. Since this happened to be on the 18th floor, it meant negotiating an elevator! As I’m slightly claustrophobic, this did not fill me with glee. But having gritted my teeth and made it up there, I was rewarded by the most spectacular views across London, and again made to feel very welcome by authors and staff. The whole experience was great.
Too soon it was time to leave and head back to Paddington for the journey home. Since my friend was already waiting back at the lunch venue (long story), I said my goodbyes and headed out to the bank of elevators. Somehow I took a wrong turn and ended up walking through a small corridor and into a landing which contained access to the stairs as well as a lone elevator with no call button! Realizing my mistake, I tried to get back to the main area, but since I was a visitor and had no security card, the door had closed behind me and I couldn’t get back out. I had no choice but to start walking down the stairs.
By this time most of the building was empty and it was getting dark outside. I had absolutely no idea how I was going to get out. There was no cell phone signal so I couldn’t call anyone, no sounds except my footsteps echoing as I hurried down the stone stairs, and no sign of anybody. I was starting to panic. Breathless, I made it to the basement only to find a barred and alarmed door with a warning that it was to be opened only in an emergency. I had visions of setting off alarms. the building being evacuated, and the London Fire Brigade summoned. There was no option but to start walking back up, checking each floor along the way to see if there was any sign of life outside the locked and secured landing, and hoping to find help. By this time, I had visions of getting stuck there forever.
I made it back up to the 6th floor, heart pounding, legs shaking, lungs burning, and on checking the landing saw a huge red phone on the wall. ‘This phone will alert security’ it declared. ‘Please do not use unless in an emergency’. Well, I didn’t really have any choice, did I? Within seconds, a man answered. Sheer relief made me babble…
“Please help me,” I virtually wailed. “I’m stuck in the stairwell on the 6th floor!”
There was a slight hesitation. “Why don’t you use your security pass to get out, madam?”
“I don’t have one. I’m a visitor at a party on the 18th floor.”
Another hesitation. “Then what are you doing on the 6th floor, madam?”
I went through the whole sorry tale and several minutes later a lovely security guard arrived to free me. I almost hugged him, I was so happy to see him.
When I met up with my friend she was starting to get frantic, not knowing where I’d been. After much commisseration, a stiff drink or two, and some much needed chocolate to calm my still raw nerves, we ended up being able to laugh about it. On the train home we decided that at least the objective for the day had been met. My first author lunch/party with my dream publisher had certainly been memorable.
And I’ve still got sore and aching thigh muscles to prove it!