Few instruments are as unassuming as the ukulele. A simple, four-stringed lute of Portuguese origin, the ukulele has become synonymous with Hawaii, where it has become something of an official state instrument. It has crept into many forms of pop music over the last half century and is known for its soothing, calming sound. The fourth episode of DNN’s Blanket Fort program featured a charming ukulele mashup of blink-182 and Tommy James and the Shondells played by one Hannah Montana (not the Hannah Montana). It is a compact, friendly-sounding instrument with an instantly recognizable sound, just the kind of thing you might want to hear if you were in trouble.
That soothing ukulele sound came in handy last month in Seattle during a power outage that affected much of the city on May 25th, when a woman became trapped between two floors at the headquarters of the Seattle Foundation as the elevator in which she was riding stopped moving.
As anybody who has been stuck in an elevator knows, it is not a fun situation. The close confines of the elevator can cause claustrophobia, the darkness becomes oppressive, and the air becomes hot and stifling. The woman yelled for help, but as the power outage was citywide, there was not much anyone could do but wait it out.
One Seattle Foundation employee heard the woman’s cries, and came to the rescue in the only way he knew how. Ruel Olanday, as it turns out, is one of those guys who is seldom without his trusty ukulele, especially at work. Realizing the woman’s predicament and wishing to help calm her growing panic, Olanday rushed back to his office, grabbed his uke, returned to the elevator banks, and began serenading the woman through the elevator shaft. Although she was something of a captive audience, the woman became calm and was able to ride out the approximately one hour wait in relative comfort until the power was restored and the elevator was able to move. The woman was uninjured in the ordeal and presumably has developed a new respect for the soothing strains of the ukulele.