May 03, 2006

Hate in an Elevator

Why is it that when my boss goes out of town, the only thing I feel like doing is reading Sex and the City recaps? I’m so frickin’ lazy. I thought the day would pass by uneventfully, but lo, there has been an event. Walk with me.

As I’m trekking down the hall for the mail run, I hear the elevator ding twice, so I hurry up to catch it as it’s going down (this particular elevator takes forever; the easiest way to catch it is by surprise). I get in at the last second, a small older woman the only other occupant. I hit the button for the basement, and notice as I do so that the button for the top floor is lit also. I move to take my usual, polite space at the back of the elevator and as the door closes, the woman turns to me with a “I hope it’s not going to do down now.”

I’m confused, as I thought the elevator was going down, so being the self-doubting and conscientious person I am, I move to check the ‘down’ arrow on the outer door, before I realize the doors are closing. The movement of the car answers her question. “Oh, thanks a lot,” she says to me, almost cartoonishly put-out. I think she is joking, so I just smile slightly and nod.

But she persists: “It was going up, before you got in and pushed the down button.”

I realize that she’s serious. And also that’s she’s wrong. And, that she really wants to discuss it. I also know that I have exactly two floors to make her realize that she’s totally in the wrong, which doesn’t seem like enough time to explain how an elevator works. “The elevator was going down,” I try.

“No, it wasn’t!” She insists. “It dinged, and I got on and pushed “four”, and then you got on and made it go down!” She’s not yelling, but berating me in a very stern how-dare-you sort of voice.

I see where she made her mistake. I can also see she’s a belligerent harpy. I keep my cool. “Ma’am,” I try again, silently hoping she hates to be called that, “It dinged twice. For down. I can’t make it go the other way by pushing--”

We have now reached the basement floor; she cuts me off as the doors slide open: “Oh whatever, look, just get the hell out, will ya?!”

I am stunned. I think I actually stared at her for a minute before exiting the elevator because, as is the point of this entire post (and could really go without saying, so of course I feel the need to say it anyway), there was absolutely no call for that shit. First of all, she’s wrong. Secondly, she wants to blame me for that wrong, and third, she wants to yell at me, a total stranger, for the less than thirty seconds she has wasted, on her own account, going in the wrong direction.

This is where I would like to say that I did the proper thing, the thing you always think you would do in that situation, which is tell her there’s no need for her language and attitude, I don’t appreciate it, and that you hope she’s under some kind of stress or narcotic that is making her act this way and you’re sure she would never be so openly rude to a stranger and please have a nice day, then turn on your heel and leave with dignity. You’d probably never picture yourself hanging your head and booking like hell out of the elevator. Good for you.

So I am now filled with rage. Great, seething hared that I let anyone speak to me that way, even if it were my fault—even if she were queen of something which, I suppose she could be, if there’s an Abusive and Truculent Old Fishwives Society (North American Chapter). I can’t believe it. Now I have wrath flying off me like ions, into the heads and limbs of my innocent coworkers. Grr. The worst part is that, as mad as I am at her, I’m madder at me for not fighting it out with her. That I let her make me feel ashamed because I respected / feared her too much to call her out on it. I am left with nothing but my shattered self-esteem and my impotent little fantasies that, while getting on the elevator to go home, the bell dings and she steps into an empty shaft, and falls to her cantankerous death with much screaming and agony. And then the car falls on her bitter old bones.

Yes, yes: Hellfire, damnation, whatever. At least she’ll get hers when I see her there.
Meanwhile, you can bet I’ll spend the rest of my day riding that same elevator, up and down, waiting for her and spoiling for a fight.

To end on a positive note, so as not to let Bitchy Inappropriate Elevator Shrew be the last thought in my head today, I will leave you with a more serene image: Last night was one of the best stay-in nights ever. Picture the rainy weather, cup of tea, pan of brownies, and a gripping episode of House with friends.* I love it when TV is an experience and not a mindless lifestyle, like the vast difference between when you eat food and when you actually enjoy it. And speaking of enjoying food, if you’ve never had a soy-loaf in your life, you’re really not doing yourself any favors: all the best bits of a meatloaf without the nasty grease and grisly meat-bits. I might be a vegetarian yet.**

* We all kind of want Foreman to bite it, right? I know, “What’s with all the death wishing?” Well, I hate Foreman and, um, ELEVATOR!
** I am lying, of course—unless chicken has been recently redefined as a species of carrot.

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