While I would not wish upon anyone what Marites Fortaliza endured last weekend, being trapped in a billionaire employer’s in-home elevator is, in a way, a dark visual metaphor for today’s hyper-capitalistic, deeply stratified world.
The New York Times reports that Fortaliza, 53, of Queens, was stuck in an elevator at an Upper East Side townhouse for three days, from Friday evening until Monday morning, while the owners were away. She works for the family of Warren Stephens, a billionaire investor from Arkansas who bought the townhouse for a reported $8 million in 1999. I imagine it’s pretty nice there, unless you’re a domestic worker trapped in a tiny metal box for three days with no food, water, or toilet.
Firefighters rescued Fortaliza on Monday morning, prying open the doors of the elevator, which was stuck between the second and third floor of the townhouse. ABC News reports that the city’s Department of Buildings is investigating, and issued an “aggravated violation” after inspectors were unable to access the building on Monday.
“The cause of this unfortunate incident is being investigated,” the Stephens family said in its statement, “and appropriate measures will be taken to ensure that something like this never happens again.” The family said Fortaliza has been working for them for 18 years.
Stephens’s neighbor, who seems not at all out-of-touch, contextualized the incident on New York 1, however, by explaining that “humans can last 72 hours” without food or water, so what Fortaliza “went through went beyond what we’re used to, because we’ve become so civilized we’ve lost touch with our true strength.” While Fortaliza recovers from what must have been a deeply traumatic and scary experience, I sense the dawning of a new fad among eccentric billionaires, in which they test their raw manliness and mental toughness by living in a stuck elevator for 72 hours.