Let’s talk about being in a lift. Or an elevator, depending on your penchant for American or English English. Or as I prefer to say, ‘correct’ English. Calling it English English just sounds plain stupid. Anyway, just to clarify matters, lift, elevator, same damn thing. What I want to talk about is the sheer comic awkwardness of it all. Even if you manage to overcome the fact that you are in a metal box being manipulated by a system of ropes and pulleys, how weird is that environment?
If you take the journey alone, there’s that perpetual fear, ‘What if it gets stuck and nobody knows I’m here?’
It’s a false environment, like a submarine or a plane. You know, even on a subliminal level, that you are just not supposed to be there. You don’t belong
It’s slightly better if you are able to grab a journey in a lift with a friend or acquaintance, you can just chat about the kind of things you would normally chat about, which takes your mind off it. But even then there is a creeping awkwardness. Besides, those days are few and far between. I work in a building containing around 1200 people, most of whom don’t know each other. Or even want to know each other, if the truth be told. The thirty seconds or so you pass in a confined space with a handful of strangers crawls by agonizingly slowly. The uncomfortable silence envelopes you as everyone shuffles nervously and tries to avoid making eye contact, just like they do on the subway.
It doesn’t help that the general unease I experience in lifts is compounded by an almost pathological desire to break wind. If you burp loudly, it wouldn’t be as much fun because everyone would know it was you. No mischief to be had there.
But if you let a stinky fart slip out undetected, you could just step back and enjoy the devastation. The accusing glances and wrinkling noses. Odds are most people would just pretend not to notice, such are the cultural restraints we’ve imposed on ourselves and each other, but everyone present (except you) would be involved in the same guessing game.
Who did that?
Was it this person?
Was it you?
Was it… me?