One of the most overlooked sources of entertainment and oddity on campus is in an unusually usual place. Believe it or not, some of the greatest examples of bizarre human behavior that I”ve encountered here occurred in none other than our very own elevators.
Picture this: It is 11:00 a.m. on an unusually sunny Thursday. We are in the elevator lobby in Dennison. (Three of the four elevators are out of order.) Seven strangers (Ari, a Sagittarius from Bloomfield Hills, Elly, a Buddhist from Tenn., Belle and Sebastian, both on international exchange students, Shyla, a soccer player, Vivek, a musician and Dr. D.H. Bob, a professor) all board as the doors open.
Vivek starts to hum as the door closes. He”s listening to Janis Joplin”s greatest hits on his Mp3 player. He smiles and makes eye contact with Dr. Bob. Dr. Bob immediately concentrates on looking preoccupied. He fixes his tie, his collar, his glasses … Then, Dr. Bob looks up to see if Vivek is still looking. And Vivek is.
Dr. Bob thinks, “Teenagers are all hoodlums.” And Vivek thinks, “Janis Joplin is the bomb.” And together they share a moment of pseudo-interaction, each thinking that he knows what the other is thinking.
Ari has obviously not read his horoscope this morning. If he had, he would have seen that Mizz Velveeta, the “Weekend” astrologer, had strongly advised against wearing orange and blue together in an outfit. Unfortunately, Ari is a not-so-closet Ohio State University and University of Illinois fan. And he doesn”t believe in astrology. So he clashes a bit. His brightness kind of lights up the elevator, sending the others” sense of visual balance off a bit. Every time the elevator stops, the kids all have to look around a little in order to regain their sense of grounded-ness.
Vivek suppresses the urge to hop.
Elly inconspicuously examines her own outfit to see if she has made any similar fashion mistakes. She hasn”t. But what she doesn”t know is that her lower lip is covered in Arm and Hammer Whitening Toothpaste from her post-bagel brushing. Shyla spots it but is too timid to say anything. Shyla then notices that the toothpaste has the consistency of her roommate”s Arm and Hammer toothpaste. She grimaces, recalling the strong baking soda aftertaste.
Elly is starting to notice that the elevator smells a bit off. Dr. Bob sniffs the air suspiciously.
Apparently Belle and Sebastian speak the same undistinguishable language. They start conversing. Vivek can”t help but wonder if A) he is the subject of their conversation or B) Sebastian is not wearing any deodorant. Elly remembers something about Europeans showering less. Vivek remembers something about college students showering less. And Shyla is suddenly happy that she is an athlete, because they are more or less forced to bathe regularly.
So Shyla turns to the back of the elevator, making everyone uncomfortable. She is almost face-to-face with Ari. Elly turns to make more room, and she catches her reflection in the stainless-steel ceiling. She licks the toothpaste.
Someone nervously tries to converse and nobody replies. All of a sudden they can all hear their own breathing.
And then the ride is over. Nobody leaves because each person thinks that it is polite to let the others go first. Then the door starts to close so Dr. Bob scurries out, followed by Vivek et al. Then Vivek realizes that his 11:00 isn”t even in Dennison. It is in Mason Hall. Everyone else loiters, anxious to be in class on time but not anxious to be in class.
And in a week Sebastian will drive by Shyla on S. Division and wonder if he met her at a party or something.And he will feel badly that he wasn”t friendlier because now it is too late for an easy introduction.
Vivek will go on to become the greatest rock star of all time and the rest of the people from the elevator will wish they talked to him. When he makes a movie about his climb to success they all take their families, reminiscing about attending college with a rock star.
Belle and Sebastian will return to their country with the belief that the University is full of snobs.
Shyla and Elly will end up working in the same National City branch, luring unsuspecting students into premature responsibility with the promise of free checking.
The moral of this convoluted parable, my friends, is that you should be nice to people in elevators. Because it is so damn awkward. And we all know this. And we all still have to use them.
So if you only consider it: one elevator, two trips, three classes a week, 8-10 semesters, 9 passengers Multiply these factors together, and in less time than it takes to get a diploma, you can have 3,076 friendly acquaintances to wave at you in the Diag.
And if that isn”t reason enough to force a smile, then maybe you are one of those people who need to take the stairs.
Sarah Rubin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.