Thursday, July 24, 2008

An Elevator Story

This morning, I got on the elevator to go up to my office. A British man, gray crown of hair around his balding head, got on behind me. He had a briefcase in one hand and a coffee in the other. I'd never seen him before. Maybe he was going to the employment agency upstairs, or the call center with the rapid turnover.

I pushed the button for the sixth floor, then turned to him.

"What floor?"

"Nine. I owe you one."

"I'll meet you on the way back down so you can push the button for me."

"What time?"

(nervous laughter. He's joking, right?)

"You'll just break my heart like all the others," he said. "I've had my heart broken more times than I could count."

Were I not wondering if he were about to hit on me, I'd have told him that I understood his pain in ways he'd never know, and that it was the human condition. I would not have assured him that everything would be okay, because it isn't about things turning into happy endings. It's about readjusting one's expectations while on the "second half of the sandwich," as my friend Denise would say. (The sandwich being a metaphor for life, the first half making you think "Wow, there's so much more left.") But caution won over sympathy.


"Yes. I was just thinking about the love of my life. She's really never coming back."

The door opened on six. I got out.

"Life is hard," he said wistfully as the doors closed on him.


Sara Kocher said...

I like this vignette very much. I've read it three times while trying to think of something useful to say about it and the more I read it, the more I like it. Not very useful commentary, I'm afraid, though.

By the way, while he might be on his second half, I'd like to think you have more than an 84-year sandwich.

Marie said...

It was the most simple honest truth I've ever heard on an elevator. I guess there wasn't much to add.

I like the sandwich metaphor. When Denise learned it, she was about 21 and eating lunch with a guy from her office. He was maybe in his fifties, and he used his sandwich to explain why she was so optimistic while he was so beaten-down.

I have a lot of food allergies and am trying hard NOT to complicate the metaphor.