While freight elevators are among the worst places to be assaulted by heavyset deliverymen, regular elevators are equally bad places to be assaulted by random thoughts. I think we all can agree on that. And this is where it seems to happen most frequently, elevators. Perhaps it’s because that is where the stakes are highest. Where Attenborough from the C-suite might size you up and wonder if you’re ready for the Preminger Account. (Has he forgotten about last year’s bungled tennis compliment, when you said he had the ground strokes of Haile Selassie instead of Ilie Năstase?) Or where that new minx from Accounts Payable, the one with the blouse-covered neck tattoo you can only partially read and the party-girl name, might consider you, if only for a quiet Wednesday night, Shana-worthy.
In other words here it pays to be all business. Yet I’m never all business in elevators. It shouldn’t be hard to stay frosty. I mean, there’s a million appropriate things to do. Check news on your iPhone. Look at your shoes or, if you’re lucky, the LCD screen newsfeed. Loosen and tighten your tie. Plug in earbuds and enjoy some final moments with Burt Bacharach before you officially belong to The Man. But giggling at thoughts that cross your mind alone? A one-way ticket to LonelyTown, Population: You.
Here’s a recent one I imagined: Todd Rundgren gets on the elevator with me in the lobby, a beautiful woman on his arm. Then Peter Frampton boards on the next floor with an even more beautiful woman. The rock icons are cordial at first, but immediately the fur flies. Frampton draws first blood by observing Hello It’s Me may be the least manly song ever sung. Rundgren counters by saying the answer to Do You Feel Like We Do is Yes, if you feel like waterboarding whoever penned the lyrics. Rundgren momentarily savors the zinger, but his phone rings at the worst time because the ring-tone is Hello It’s Me. Frampton’s victory is short-lived as the doors open and Zeppelin’s Robert Plant is standing there. He’s like “oy, ladies, let’s take the stairs” and the women dutifully follow, dropping their dates like second-period French. I try to lighten the mood by asking if that guy from Canned Heat talks like he sings, but nobody feels like chatting.
Sometimes the secret thoughts follow a fixed pattern, such as Ironic, More Ironic, Weird. Example:
Ironic: A semiotics professor, you pride yourself on your intentionality, yet it’s never occurred to you why every day in the shower you use conditioner.
More Ironic: Dread fills your heart as you consider for the first time that humans are being conditioned for some sinister purpose.
Weird: As you towel off, a stranger sounding unmistakably like Donald Sutherland calls, says you’re closer to the truth than you think but warns you to be careful. The next day a shapely woman with bouncing and behaving hair mixes flirtatiously with you in the faculty lounge. Drawing you close, she whispers menacingly “just be a good boy and use the conditioner.” Then she viciously throat-punches you.
Other times it’s the noncompliant haikus, which tend to come in quintets:
Golden morning sun
Is your beauty just for me?
Whatever. Just don’t judge me for buying two cases of beer every Wednesday morning. It’s no different than drinking at a party where I don’t talk to anybody.
Snowflake on my cheek
Fragility of it all
We’d have won States if Coach Toomey had a pair. Who calls a draw play with time expiring and no time-outs? I’d have audibled out of that, like, yesterday. Instead I’ve got the third shift tonight.
Carefree little bird
Not a worry in the world
Hello? No crippling mortgage payment weighing you down. Try soaring with that on your mind. Building a nest takes what, an hour? Plus it’s not career-limiting if you drop one on the hood of a Buick.
Strangers on a train
Did she wink coquettishly?
Nope, just something wrong with her contacts. Thank goodness for Game of Thrones. I can’t wait to get into my sweatpants tonight.
Drifting off to sleep
Do I know what dreams may come?
Dreams? What does that word mean? I’m not being dramatic, I seriously don’t remember what it means. I seek the sweet release of sleep, that’s it. Anything else is gravy.
I can’t risk this anymore, traveling by elevator. The thoughts are definitely getting stranger, and the unprovoked giggles more audible. I think I’ll just start taking the stairs. It’s good exercise, plus that way I can…hey, is that Shana in the stairwell with Gary from IT? So that’s what her tattoo says!