Friday, May 25, 2007


Here's a fun elevator. They dolled up the floor to give it that nice "shafty" appearance. Me likes.

**************** ON ELEVATORS

Is it just me or are elevators about the most socially uncomfortable places in the world?

Let’s observe the dynamics of the sophisticated elevator dance.

A single person boards an empty lift and is relaxed and free. He may pick his nose freely, inspect himself in the stainless steel doors, pry his underwear from out of his ass cheeks, cough without covering his mouth, or break wind with great force. There is great freedom in “owning” an elevator ride – but there is also great risk that the solo trip may not remain one. So this person is generally on close guard in the event the elevator should stop prematurely.

Add a second person and things begin to get interesting. Sometimes there’s a pleasantry exchanged – a simple “hello” or a nod and a smile to acknowledge the other person. But once those doors close it suddenly becomes awkward as all hell. People stare down at their feet, eyeball the numbered buttons, stare at the blinking floor indicator, fidget with their cell phone – anything at all to avoid having to make conversation with a complete stranger.

A third person boards and the tension mounts. Where to stand! They shuffle about nervously trying to remain equidistant from the elevator’s other occupants. No one wants to crowd anyone. Everyone suddenly becomes extremely self-conscious of their clothes and odor because there is now a triangle of riders. We start to wonder which passenger smells of chicken mexicali soup, while hoping the other one doesn’t think it’s us! We continue staring at our shoes and fidgeting with our belongings to avoid the discomfort.

A fourth and fifth person board and now the anxiety really starts to set in. Everyone takes mini steps to the side and back to demonstrate they are trying to make room – even though there really isn’t anywhere to go. We make ourselves thinner as we press up again the sides. We try to breathe in our own space as we notice the pulse of a whistling wheeze from somewhere in the closed cabin. It seems the ride cannot end soon enough.

As six, seven, and eight board, a state of panic ensues. People start to make contact with the people around them as they struggle to make room. Jackets brush bags and larger items like suitcases are pushed up against the walls. The doors close and no one knows where to look anymore. Most sightlines have been taken away, so the tall people look up and the short people look down. Everyone faces the doors, ready to scramble out as soon as they open. It’s become the longest 16 seconds of everyone’s life. There’s a twitch. A wheeze. Someone’s cell phone beeps from inside a pocket. The elevator hums and purrs as it hits yet another floor.

The doors open and it’s clear there isn’t any more room left for additional passengers. The people in the back are all just praying for the doors to close so we can get this damn ride over with. But the poor soul in the front facing the hallway feels obligated to, somehow, get this last person on board. So they inch their heels back carefully, looking left and right, angling slightly, and saying, “Come on – we can fit one more.” Everyone in the elevator collectively takes a breath and holds it as the ninth person crams in awkwardly.

But before the doors can close, person number nine stands blocking the infrared signal – waiting, it turns out, for her husband, who is carrying a baby and pushing a stroller.

“No way,” everyone thinks at once. This cannot happen. They won’t fit. Not possible.

But they do fit. Somehow. People are jammed in tight, completely frenzied inside and on the verge of losing control. A man clutches a Starbucks cup close to his chest to avoid spilling. A cellphone drops somewhere in the elevator, but no one knows whose it is and no one can look down to see. Everyone is tense and staring vacuously toward a spot on the wall or ceiling. Things could get no worse.

And then comes the smell. It’s heavy and dank, and clearly leaked from someone’s active bowel. Someone actually farted on the elevator! Everyone can smell it, but no one wants to acknowledge that they are resisting air. People turn their heads uncomfortably, tilting them up as though the elevator is filling with water. But the air is no fresher here, as heat rises. And this heat is some seriously strong heat. Someone suddenly coughs. The baby starts to cry. A cell phone rings and the eager jackass actually decides to answer it, speaking loudly as though he is the only one on this hellride. People begin to turn blue from holding their breath, thinking how horrible a death it would be if the elevator were to become suddenly stuck.

Suddenly the elevator slams to a close on the ground floor. The doors slide apart, and the whole mass of humanity tumbles out into the hallway.

And as the doors close again, I smile as it takes me back up to the top where I will make another fantastic voyage back down – proud as can be that the chili is working.

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