It’s not like I intended for this to become a running theme. It’s just that in any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. Here nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something . . . wait . . . that’s Los Angeles, not New York.
Anyway, my office is on the 19th floor of a building on Wall Street. The way the elevator banks are set up for my floor is that there are six elevators that run “express,” stopping only at floors 16 through 23, and two elevators that run “local,” stopping at every floor from 23 down to the ground. There’s no real rule about which one you can take except it’s understood that you can’t get mad at someone on the local if they get on at 19 and get off at 18. Think of the local like rural America, where things run a little slower, but the people don’t mind. They like it that way, gives ‘em the chance to talk to their neighbor about fertilizer and the weather and that done there fence they been building for oh about five weeks now.
Obviously I stay away from the local. At the end of the day when all I want is to get out from under fluorescent lights as quickly as possible I can’t chance getting on an elevator that might stop at no less than seven floors on the way down. Others take the “whichever one comes first” approach where they hit the button for the local and for the express and get on (this is where the name comes from) whichever one comes first. To be perfectly clear, this ANNOYS THE SHIT OUT OF ME. What happens is that these Narcissists press both buttons, then get on whichever comes first – let’s say the local. Then, after they have long left the floor, the express elevator stops, heeding their beck and call, and the doors open and, oh my!, what has happened! There’s no one to get on the elevator! Was it a ghost? No, it was just an asshole with a manic disregard for the lives of everyone around him. I mean, it’s like calling a car service to come and pick you up and then going down to the street to see if you can catch a cab. If I had my way, these people would all get genital warts.
Point being, when I’m leaving at the end of the day I press the button for the express and wait for it, local be damned.
So yesterday I’m leaving the office a little later than usual. I go to the elevator bank, press the button for the express and take out my iPod. Two seconds later, around the corner comes a small cleaning lady, seemingly of South American descent, pushing her cleaning cart. She pulls up to the local elevator and presses the button. We exchange a pleasant smile.
A second later the red light dings for the local elevator. The cleaning lady looks at me, expecting me to walk over and join her on the elevator. I don’t, of course, because I don’t take the local. As she is slowly walking on the elevator she says to me, “Well are you coming?” I say, “No thanks, I’m waiting for the express.” With that she sneers at me, even going so far as to huff (huff!) as the elevator doors close.
I know exactly what that glare and huff was meant to communicate: it said “Fine, if you don’t want to ride the elevator with a Mexican cleaning lady then I don’t want to ride the elevator with you either.” Actually, the doors closed pretty fast, so it was more like “Fine, if you don’t want to ride the elevator with a Mexi-“ But I’m a smart guy, I could figure out the rest.
A moment later the express arrives. Then, as I reach the ground floor and exit the elevator, who should simultaneously be exiting her elevator but the cleaning lady. Here I could have played it two ways: 1. I could have gone George Costanza on her saying, “Listen lady, I’m not a racist! You can’t just take the local elevator when the express is right there! We can’t have people getting on any old elevator they want just because it’s convenient for them. Why would you do that? Why? And I love all nationalities equally. I sleep with them all, every one of them! Bring em on, baby!” or, 2. I could be my endearing self and tell her to have a good night when I walked past. I chose number 1.
Just kidding, but don’t think I didn’t want to. I went with the warm smile and heartfelt “Have a good night.” I’m not sure it went far enough for her to diffuse the tension we now shared, but if Crash taught me anything it’s that freeing a van full of Asian immigrants into Chinatown instead of selling them on the black market is what Christmas is all about.