Four strangers get on an elevator in a downtown building: the Asian woman, the tall man with glasses, the beefy middle-aged office guy, and me.
We each press the buttons for our respective floors: 9, 11, 12, 15, and then fall silent staring straight ahead. It is eerie, no office chatter, no discussions of weekend plans, just four strangers in an elevator, 9, 11, 12, 15.
We look at the mini-TV screen in our elevator, which reels off news headlines, weather reports, and of course, advertisements. God forbid we spend the few seconds on an elevator not watching television, not being hit with more commercials.
The company that makes the elevator TV's is called Captivate, which is scarily appropriate. The only way you can avoid looking at the thing is to turn and face the wall.
I actually applied for a job there, back when I was a "consultant" at Goldman Sachs. "Consultant" was corporate speak for "temp" and while it looks great on a resume, the truth was all too apparent. Nobody ever consulted me about anything during my whole time there.
I wanted to get a real job, one with benefits and paid vacation--vanishing concepts in today's cutthroat consultant atmosphere. So I e-mailed the Captivate folks and they wrote back, asking my current salary.
I was making good money at Goldman, very good money. But with no sick days, minimal benefits and a rather questionable future, the quality of the paycheck was few notches below the number on my check.
But, like a dummy, I just told these people my flat salary, not explaining the lack of all the goodies that make a job tolerable. I think they must have keeled over at the number, as I never heard from them again.
It's a shame because I had an idea for installing TV's in bathroom stalls. What better time to hit people with commercials? I was going to call it Crap-tivate. You never know.
I'm struggling with yet another illness, something between a cold and a gypsy curse, that will not let go, even in the middle of the summer. Several people in my office have it and people cough and hack so loudly you'd swear it was the dead of winter.
Love in an Elevator
I need something to take my mind off my poor health, my rage, my frustration. I hate being sick, I hate myself for being sick. I am not one inch closer to my goals than I was five years ago and illness only turns up the flames on my despair. So I look around at the faces in the elevator.
I love when its just me and a woman on an elevator. I am so flirty, so outgoing, so unlike every other situation, where I look down at my shoes and take 20 minutes to get up the courage to say hello. I mean, I am getting a little better, but in a elevator I am borderline predatory.
Nothing has ever come of my elevator efforts. I did get a very nice black woman's phone number one time--it was her phone, but it was a number.
She got on the elevator when I was working at Editor & Publisher, back when it was a family-owned business located in an old building on, I think, 19th Street? Not sure.
Anyway, she got on, saw my Looney Tunes tie, a gift from a dear friend, and laughed. That was all I needed and we got to talking. I walked her down the corner, saying I was going for lunch and asking her to join me. She declined but gave me her business card.
So I called her a few days later. She sounded somewhat surprised to hear from me and completely amazed that I was asking her out. She was also not interested, and politely declined.
"But it was nice making your acquaintance," she told me.
That was one of the more formal "fuck-offs" I ever got. When I told one of my friends, he was amazed.
"I give you all the credit in the world just for asking her," he said.
Yeah, there is that. And I haven't curtailed my elevator flirting. The TV screen is a good icebreaker. Just point to a story and make some comment. You never know.
Four strangers on an elevator, 9, 11, 12, 15. Each one gets off at his or her floor, and the next one silently moves to the door, like a parachute jumper getting ready for the big leap.
It could be a Twilight Zone episode, where we all become part of some bizarre story, like the one with the clown, the soldier, the ballerina, and some other types I can't remember, all locked up in this strange room. Every few minutes their world got rocked by some tremendous booming sound.
It turned out they were all dolls in some toy drive bin and the booming sound was a child ringing a hand bell on street corner.
Of course, if the cable snapped and we all plunged to our deaths, the Post would run an "Elevator Horror" headline, or something equally tasteful. Or someone could do a take on The Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of those novels I keep meaning to read.
My fellow passengers keep getting off, going on to do their business, live their lives, until it's just me and my virus, going to the top floor. I look up at the TV screen and see there's an online quiz going on.
What do you like best about your city?
I think about the numbers, 9, 11, a spooky combination in this town. I think about the Trade Center going down, the steady of plots to destroy my hometown, blowing up tunnels, destroying train stations.
What do I like best about my city? I like that fact that it's still standing.
And then I get off at my floor.