Saturday, March 31, 2012

Trapped in the Temple

The Salt Lake Temple.

It is the largest, the famous-est, and the twistiest LDS temple in the world.

I say twisty not because it's twisty from the outside (unlike some temples I could also include a picture of)

Community of Christ temple in Independence, Missouri. Talk about your twisty temples.

but because the inside is what you might call labyrinthine. Most of the interior of the temple is underground, where I, for one, have to navigate by landmarks because my internal compass gives up in bewilderment. Besides the temple itself, there are tunnels to and from the adjacent buildings. I am a big fan of this tunnel system because A. it's cool, B. it cuts down on human/pedestrian traffic conflicts at ground level, C. it reminds me of the never-set-foot-outdoors skyway system in downtown Minneapolis, where the expense of a second-story enclosed walkway is seen as less objectionable than having to go outside in the winter, and D. it's cool.

So Wednesday night, I'd been called upon to help clean the Salt Lake Temple. This is a pretty cool opportunity; you get to explore areas you've never been to before, and vacuum endless yards of already-immaculate carpet while admiring the beautiful furniture and paintings that you've either never seen or had to walk past in a hurry. Just the sort of work I like.

I parked in the lot under the Conference Center, 'cause I could, and explained to the supervisor on duty that I was going to have to duck out about forty-five minutes early to make it to my shift at work. So far, no problem.

When I had finished my vacuuming stint, the supervisor took me to the door of the tunnel that extends under North Temple to the Conference Center parking lot. As an experiment, I beeped by work ID badge against the sensor that controls the lock of the door. It popped right open.

"Ah," said the supervisor, "You've got access. That's all right, then. Thanks for coming!"

I bid him farewell and headed into the tunnel.

At the other end of the tunnel was a large, industrial-looking door. I beeped my badge over the reader.

Beebeebeep. Access denied.

Oh, thought I, that must be the wrong door. Probably a maintenance room or something.

I turned to a convenient side door, this one human-sized, and beeped my badge over the reader.

Beebeebeep. Access denied.


I tried another door up the tunnel, although this one was clearly labeled 'Mormon Tabernacle Choir Members Only.' Guess what? Beebeebeep.

I tried a side hallway that led to a dead end with a lot of pipes. No luck there.

I went back to the second door and gave it a shove, just in case it were actually unlocked and the beebeebeep had been deceptive.


Oh, dear.

I waited for a few minutes for some Church security guys with suits, sunglasses, and earpieces to come running and tackle me. No such luck.

And the HOOOOOOOONK was grating on my nerves, so at last I went back the way I had come, to the door that led back to the temple.

Beebeebeep. Access denied.

So I sat down on the floor and settled in to wait for somebody to find me. Possibly in half an hour, when the other cleaning volunteers went home. Possibly in the morning. Possibly never.

I knew I wouldn't have cell phone reception down there, but in the interests of being thorough, I pulled out my phone and turned it on.

Oh, I did have reception. Huh. Okay, then.

I called the Global Service Center. Having typed the number onto about fifty billion e-mails, I remember it pretty well.

One of the Asia/Pacific team agents picked up.

"Hi," said I. "I'm trapped under the temple. Tell Claudio I'm probably going to be late for work."

"Oh!" said the agent. "Oh, dear. Um . . . is there somebody I should call to let you out?"

"You can try calling the temple, but I don't know that they'll pick up at eleven-thirty at night," said I.

"How about security?"

"I think they already know I'm down here, but that's worth a try."

I was put on hold. I held.

When the line opened up again, the bewildered voice of a security guy said, "Hello?"

"Hello!" said I. "I'm kind of trapped under the temple here. The tunnel to the Conference Center."


"I may have set off one of your alarms." (Note: 'May have' was probably unnecessary in this context, as I'm sure he could hear the HOOOOOOOOOONK in the background as I talked.)

"Yeah, I saw that, but couldn't see you on any of the cameras."

(Note: there's a security camera blind spot about ten feet from the temple-end of that tunnel. Good to know.)

"Go ahead and walk down towards the parking lot, and I'll open the door for you."

I stood. I walked. The big industrial doors that I'd first tried opened like magic.

"Ah!" said I. "Thank you very much!" I gratefully fled my underground prison and its still-blaring alarm.

And I was only fifteen minutes late for work.