The Daily Dump

A place where everyone (me) is welcomed to express their opinions openly and honestly. I encourage free thinking, free wheeling, off-the-cuff banter and monetary donations.

Tuesday, April 4

My (Almost) Racist Elevator Ride

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.


you have the most interesting "elevator stories"! I was expecting a REALLY intersting story when at the "I chose number 1" line!
Our building only has 5 floors so we just exchange pleasant small talk.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:37 PM  

What if she was really just looking for an opportunity to sexually harrass you (ie. grope you in the elevator) and you didn't give it to her. A woman scorned....

By Blogger Betty, at 4:44 PM  

The real question is...

Why did you post a picture of Lenny staring out his window?

Is he looking for Hormone?

By Blogger tall 1, at 4:50 PM  

There are three floors in my office building and it never fails that someone on the second floor takes the elevator up one floor, even when it's taking forever. They just stand there and huff and I go take the stairs up the three floors. It's even worse when the elevator is going down and the people on the second floor feel the need to take the stairs down one floor.

By Blogger Heather B., at 5:27 PM  

The second real question is, how many times did you press the elevator button while you were waiting for that express?

By Blogger Marci (aka Baby Banana), at 5:44 PM  

Seriously, I need to stop taking the stairs. I think it would make my life far more interesting/ complicated.

By Blogger mysterygirl!, at 5:53 PM  

Apparently you think I should be sentenced to an incurable venereal disease. Because I have been known to call a cab company and when they don't show up, I go try and find one on my own.

Sometimes this is a better idea at 5 a.m., alone in downtown after you just left a party by way of the fire escape, than being curtious and waiting for the cab I called.

By Blogger Erin Mc, at 5:56 PM  

That was pretty funny..

1) I loved Crash. Awesome movie.
2) Maybe she was just making one of those srunched up faces for no reason and you misread her.
3) I just wouldn't wanna ride on there anyways whenever I see a cleaning person with a cart or the mailguy with his cart b/c it's too squishy and u dunno if they're gonna need to stop on the next floor and waste even more of your time.
4) I'm glad you stood your ground and went Express!!!
5) George Castanza reference was awesome, and if used, would have been even more awesome
6) You're right, she prolly thought you were some racist bigshot who frowns on the Mexican population.


By Blogger Laurie (aka buggy), at 8:32 PM  

I got in the elevator today with a visitor (not there to see me), and we proceded to have this exchange...

Guy (wide-eyed like a child in some sort of store with candy): Wow, this place is great!! Some office you guys got here!

Ace: Nah, it's okay. Gets old real fast.

Guy: I don't think I'd ever get used to working here.

Ace: You would. So who you hear to see?

Guy: Lois.

Ace: I've never heard of her. Good luck, dude.

The joke is, I'm about the friendliest 20-something stranger I know -- I make friends on the subways, the buses, everywhere I go I chat up the people I meet and make sure they leave knowing they have a comrade in me should we ever meet again in this concrete jungle. I wasn't even in a bad mood. That's just how the conversation played out.

Not sure why I felt compelled to write this comment, considering my biggest flaw is trying to be loved by everyone at all times, but I guess I felt the need to make you feel a little better about your racist romance today...

By Blogger Ace Cowboy, at 10:49 PM  

I grew up in a community were racism was nonexistent, but traveling around, I have found that minorities have been socialized into being on constant offense. Racism now isn't so much a discrimnation against skin color as it is about the mindset of constant attack on the minorities' part.

But then, whose fault is that?

Not yours. I'm sorry you got the blame.

By Blogger Janet, at 12:01 AM  

Your description of the "express" elevators reminded me of Tokyo.. not the point of the post, I know, but made me homesick nonetheless. They don't make tall buildings in LA!
As for the racism - you didn't do anything wrong in my opinion. If the cleaning lady took offense, too bad for her!

By Blogger Audrey, at 11:29 AM  

you're hilarious and I pretty much chuckle out loud at work (col?) with whatever daily dumpage you have to offer. i love it!

By Anonymous Mara, at 11:52 AM  

Mr. Intellectual,

I really think you should consider changing your name to Belligerent Mostly-Inellectual. Why? Mostly because Mexico is not a part of South America... no sir, it's part of good ol' North America. :)

Don't fret. Think all brown-skinned people come from South America doesn't make you racist... hmmm or does it? Just kidding. This was actually a hilarious post -- I would have done the same thing... except for shouting out that I'd sleep with anyone from any race at any time. I'm not that slutty. :)

By Blogger undercover celebrity, at 12:10 PM  

I will be the first to admit that geography is my weak point. When The Girlfriend and I first started planning our trip to Spain I was shocked (shocked!) to find out that Portugal is just this little piece of land right inside Spain. I have no idea where I thought it was, but I certainly didn't think it was there.

By Blogger the belligerent intellectual, at 12:16 PM  

I work on 37. Luckily our elevators (all 8 of them) only service 25-37, but you'd be amazed by how many people will get on at 33 and off at 32. There are 4 staircases - one in each corner. In most cases it would be faster to take the stairs, and yet people consistently take the elevator to go down one flight.

There are few people who can do it: people carrying things (things other than a few sheets of paper or a blackberry), women with uncomfortable shoes and the cleaning people or the caterers with their carts. (And they usually use the service elevators, so it's not even an issue.)

But yeah, I'm pretty sure elevators are one of the largest causes for annoyance at work.

(Oh, and I have a racist elevator ride story too! Long story short, it began with an immigrants' rights rally on the street and ended with some bitch saying, "So I was like, 'It's my fucking country, I'll say what I want to say, Mexican!'" Can you imagine being so crazy/oblivious so as to feel comfortable saying that sort of thing on an elevator with strangers?!)

By Blogger Scarlet, at 12:31 PM  

I work at home, so it's always express from my bed to my chair. I don't even need to decide what to wear--let alone decide what elevator to take.

Sometimes I look in the bedroom mirror before going to work and think: stupid white man.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:54 PM  

Having read your blog for awhile, I know you well enough to say there isn't a racist bone in your body. You would get on the elevator any ethnic group. The real reason you didn't get on that elevator is that you are a snob and don't want to be seen riding down with "the help."

By Anonymous Neil, at 6:22 PM  

Honestly! Have you considered the cleaning woman just might have let out a long sigh after heaving her cart on the elevator? Perhaps the reason you thought the cleaning woman was miffed was because of your perceptions, not hers. p.s. Mexico is not in South America.

By Anonymous Stella Blue, at 7:05 PM  

For the record, my company has offices on 3, 8, 9 and 10 in one building. due to supposed security reasons, we aren't allowed to use the stairs. ironically, people also need to frequently go between floors. just wanted to clear that up. i will admit it is painful when someone perfectly capable of walking down one flight gets on at 2 and off at 1.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:16 PM  

perhaps your prejudice isn't against mexican americans but cleaning ladies?

By Blogger Tank, at 7:55 AM  

i don't ride with mexicans either.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:18 AM  


I'll bet you thought about this a lot longer than she did.

Being a brown person of not-obviously-specific ethnicity (i.e. Hawai'an in NYC), other Brown People talk to me in their native language all the time and look at me like I'm lying when I say I don't speak whatever it is they are speaking.

White people just come right out and ask "What are you?", which I used to find mildly offensive. But I like getting attention, so I never really got bent out of shape about it.

Now, when queried about my ethnicity, I respond with:

"I'm from the future. Everybody looks like this."

By Blogger J., at 12:10 PM  

Maybe she just knows the elevators better than you BECAUSE SHE WORKS IN THE F*CKING BUILDING.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:36 PM  

I generally try to avoid taking the elevator with hispanics. This is why I'm in such good shape.

By Blogger White Dade, at 4:39 PM  

"Honestly! Have you considered the cleaning woman just might have let out a long sigh after heaving her cart on the elevator?"

And what planet are you from? I am Hispanic, grew up around Hispanics and they indeed possess such behaviors. If you don't believe most Hispanics truly resent YOU and "the man," you are being, well, ignorant. I can tell you a good deal of their conversations are comprised of making fun of Americans and rolling their eyes at us. Worse is treatment towards their "own kind" (moi) who have (gasp!) assimilated. I've been called many nasty names when I choose to speak English instead of Spanish - in this my own country, no less.

I KNOW this women was thinking exactly what you suspect. That friendly smile she gave you was conditional. Once she felt you saw her as being below your own worth, she revealed her true feelings: That she dislikes you, dislikes what she thinks you think of her. It's such a ridiculous mind-fuck they set up for themselves. God bless the immigrants who come here and actually express gratitude for any opportunity to work and make a living. People like my grandfather and grandmother. As hard as they worked and struggled, they never sent hate vibes to anyone. They also never spent energy reacting to what they chose to intepret as racism. They were too busy feeling grateful and focusing on a dream. I apolgize if this offends anyone, but I'm so tired of people coming here and dumping all their anger. No one said it was easy.

My experience may not be a pretty one, but it comes from an honest, 20 year perspective.

By Anonymous Maria Denise, at 11:27 PM  

Next time, you should get on the first available elevator. I haven't been able to test this out, but there is a hack for elevators to go in Express mode without a key.

By Blogger Mellinnia Woman, at 4:03 PM  

I'm a scary looking dude; I have a shaved head, a bushy beard, and I often wear sunglasses and a beanie that looks like a Muslim kufi. Whilst riding the elevator in my building, I've had people look in the open door, and sort of hesitate. I give them my best shark smile, and hold the door for them until the get in. Hee.

I have five words for you: rappel down from your floor.

By Blogger Alex, at 12:37 PM  

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