Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A little light goes out

I know this post is long, but trust me: you'll want to read it. If you do, you'll feel a little like I feel after I watch Jerry Springer: glad I am myself instead of certain other people. All set then?

I have lived, for an embarrassing number of years, in a tiny studio apartment. I live here for one simple reason: when I moved to New York, my brother was convinced that within one hour of my arrival, I would be murdered and stuffed into a dumpster behind a strip bar. It was, therefore, he who chose my apartment. He chose this particular apartment because the location is usually overrun with secret service agents and others with law enforcement training. He loves this about my place. Me too.

And there are other things to love about my place: 24-hour doorman that does everything from feed the fish to collect the mail to take my laundry out. A perfect view of the river, thick walls, (or quiet neighbors?) a gym, a park across the street.


I have a problem,* which I will now explain by describing a downside to living in my building: the elevators,** and the people who are in them.

There are four elevators in my building, serving roughly 1000 people who live here. That means that I rarely get to ride the elevator all by myself.*** And that means that when I get on the elevator, odds are better than 50/50 that I will have to have a useless conversation with someone I do not really know and wish I knew even less.

You see, no one in my building seems to have gotten the NYC memo about privacy, about being in a perpetual hurry. About unfriendliness being a form of respect for other people's time. It's like everyone who lives here is from Alabama (and no, there's nothing wrong with acting like you are from Alabama - but it's WAY better, if you are acting like you are from Alabama, to actually be LOCATED in Alabama, where people have time for that sort of thing), without the drawl. They chat in the mornings on the way down to get coffee or on the way to their places of employment. In the evenings, they describe how the day went. If they are work-from-home people like me, they talk about how their pets are the cutest ever and ask me why I never attend the building social functions, since I am obviously here all the time. An elevator filled with five people sounds like a Junior League meeting.

Picture this: I come home at 8pm after ingesting four cocktails. I smell like sour apple jolly ranchers and second hand smoke, and all I want to do is stagger into my apartment and begin eating something salty. Well... no. Because on the elevator, I have to talk to Mrs. K, about how her daughter's gymnastic camp is the GREATEST - and the ongoing debate over whether they should welcome a kitten into their family.

And don't you have a cat? You do?? OH, that's so great. Hey, do you mind if I just come in for a few minutes and meet your cat? It might help me make a decision, and besides. I have ALWAYS wanted to see your place. It's a studio, right?

And so there I am, reader. Drunk, in an elevator, with a woman so lacking in the memo that I am forced to tell her that, no, she may not come in and see my cat because my cat is on holiday in Scotland until next weekend. Fortunately, she is stupid enough to believe this. The real and actual truth is that my apartment, while charming in its way, is usually so littered with empty liquor bottles, unfolded laundry, moldy take out containers and assorted climbing gear that any sane person who happened to drop in would automatically assume that I had been robbed (and that the thieves had apparently decided to live in my place for a few days before taking off with the television and the stereo).

It is for this reason - in case you're lost, (and how could you not be? what a stupid post!) the reason I refer to is the absurdly friendly, wholesome people who live in my building talking to me every time I get in an elevator - that I get a whole lot of pleasure out it when THEIR LIGHTS GO OUT.

No, I do not refer (metaphorically) to their deaths. I am not quite that mean (yet). I refer to the delicious moment when they press the number in the elevator panel denoting the floor they live on, only to discover that the bitty light residing behind the number denoting the floor they live on has burnt out.

Because when that happens, the press their own special button, over and over, nervously watching the top panel to see if the elevator will exhibit the much more serious malfunction of refusing to stop on their precious floor.

It doesn't, of course. The elevator stops on the denoted floor, they exit. And I all the up to floor fourteen, I gaze at by own, personal beacon:

Because my building is almost a hundred years old, and because I am pretty sure the elevators are at least fifty, other people's lights go out ALL THE TIME. And due to my meanness, it never fails to give me pleasure.

Until, that is, today. Can you guess, reader, what happened to me today?

I got on the elevator, loaded down with three grocery bags and a pizza box. Right behind me: Mrs. K, her daughter, Mr. X, and someone's unattended eight year old.**** Everyone pressed buttons. I angled my pizza box corner into the proper position and pressed.

*pausing for dramatic efffect.*

**still pausing. You know what happened, don't you?**

My heart cracked. I, who have pressed button fourteen with the corner of many a pizza box, was forced to accept the appalling truth: my light has gone out.


***I know. I know. I'll give you a moment to collect yourself.***

I tried really hard to refrain from pressing the button again. But I couldn't stop myself. I jammed corner of that pizza box into button fourteen, nervously watching the top panel, until the corner of my pizza box went dented and crushed and the pizza was crying. Mrs. K was laughing at me. Her daughter was looking at me as if I belonged behind a slab of thick glass at the zoo. Mr. X was congratulating himself on the good judgment he'd exercised when he'd decided I wasn't hot enough to ask for a date all the years ago. And the lone eight year old, bless his heart, said nothing. He silently lifted a hand to stabilize my grocery bags, which were careening back and forth and threatening to knock us all to the floor.

And then floor fourteen. And the door opened. And away I went to put salt on my pizza, eat it, and think tearfully about why I turned out like this.

Why did I turn out like this?

* yes. yes, I know. I always seem to have a problem. So what?

** yes. yes, I know. I am fortunate to have an elevator. Fortunate to have a roof over my head. Fortunate to live in a country where most people's biggest issue is whether to save for a boat or buy a bigger SUV. Can you stop thinking about how selfish I am and focus on my problem, as I so reasonably requested? This is about me. Not you.

*** in case you haven't noticed, I am very into myself. I think about myself all the time, more than anyone else in the whole wide world. So I don't LIKE it (sometimes) when I have be AMONG OTHERS. Me. Me. ME!

**** what the fuck is wrong with people?


Anonymous said...

are you the hot librarian's sister? :p

Who am I? said...

Sister 1: Banjo Player
Sister 2: Ambulance Driver
Sister 3: Newspaper Reporter

I would have made a great librarian, myself, though. I even have the glasses.