Unspoken Elevator Rules

Unspoken Elevator Rules

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There’s an unspoken social contract of elevator silence, but it is so painfully dull, is it not? I confess, I was bored, traveling up a crowded elevator, staffed today as everyday with the same sad-faced silent suits, all dreading another day at the office, studiously avoiding eye contact by looking forward with vacant stares or at their cell phones.  As I travel up to my law office on the 11th floor of what used to be the Bank of America tower, now called the Topeka Tower, which I secretly think should be called the Patton tower. By the way, I shared that last brilliant idea with my landlord, who somehow just didn’t catch the vision. Tim, my offer still stands.

On my traditional morning elevator ride, I thought I should share a life tidbit with the folks on the elevator just to make light conversation, but I didn’t. We all share this same elevator conspiracy of total silence. I, too, am a co-conspirator; so I said nothing because I don’t know what to say on the elevator, but also feel guilty about not saying it.

But I don’t know what to say on the elevator, do you? Perhaps something cheerful like “Welcome to my elevator today, we’ve been waiting for you, my name Joe, this is Doug, Jane, and Jimbob.” I imagine we would all smile, share our occupations, explore new heights of conversational adventures together, glad-handing, laughing, and sharing photos of grandkids.

No, I don’t do this. Instead, fears arise in my mind like, I’m a lawyer. People hate lawyers. I used to be a politician. People hate politicians.  I control the urge to defend myself against these unjust silent accusations by shouting, “Come on, people, at least I’ve never been a used car salesman!” Do you feel my pain? The pain is more intense as I realize elevator talk is the same as when, as a kid, I would strike out in baseball, always. In the elevator, I imagine I have two strikes against me before I even get to the conversational plate, one more and I’m out. I have but one chance and if I blow it, boom, it’s all over. I am stressed imagining the conversation umpire suddenly appearing out of nowhere, with the thumb extended, screaming in my face, “you’re out’ta there.” The elevators door opens at the 11th floor, head down, shoulders shrugged, I walk away to my office dugout in total humiliation.

Today only one of our superb elevators were in operation; we are crammed in, front to back, getting dangerously close to the person in front of me, the canned 60’s music oppressing any possible conversation. The car stops short of the floor I want, short of the floor anyone wants, except the suit from the back that has to get out, only to discover he has the wrong floor and we all have to cram back in, “Pay attention to the little lighted numbers near the ceiling, you…” but I don’t say it, because Jesus loves even him.

I get it; it would be blasphemy to desecrate this elevator creed of silence. But I want to say something to these cherished brothers and sisters with whom I share the faith that we might arrive at our promised land in the heavens, in my case the 11th floor. These dear congregants who religiously gather twice each day in our ancient elevator, sharing hallowed moments of silence. Today, however, I found the right words as the door bangs shut, the elevator jerks up, stops, jerks down, then up again, with every eye closed and every head bowed, I say, “Let’s us pray.”

Be kind to each other today; it’s rough out there.

Joe Patton

Mildly amusing country lawyer

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