Elevators. Handy little boxy contraptions that take us up and down, but also trap us in awkward silence or awkward conversation. For me it was the latter. It went a little bit like this.
I live on a high floor in my building. Obviously, I take the elevator. On this particular day, I was on the elevator, heading down, minding my own business. Head phones in. A universal sign of don’t talk to me.
It was ignored.
I believe it was like the seventeenth floor, another resident stepped on. Hit one. The elevator starts moving. I could feel the eyes. I was used to it already—but from Chinese people. Not the Caucasian male who stepped on. And the first words out of his mouth:
“Are you African?”
Pause. Look up and take one head phone out. “No.” The wheels start turning in my head.
“Oh, where are you from?”
Here it really should have ended. Answers were short and direct. Clearly, I had no plans of making this conversation move. However, this man was a chatterox.
“Really! I’m from Pennsylvania. What part?”
Dang it! I’m looking at the que hoping we’re at least on the fifth floor by now. Sadly, I had many floors to go. I was still stuck on, ‘Are you African?” Why do I have to be African? You’re from Pennsylvania and should know black people come from more places than Africa. But I didn’t comment on it.
The conversation continues and I don’t understand why the elevator is crawling. I’m regretting acknowledging that I understand English. Regretting, that I said anything. The conversation had already started out on a strange note and now it was about to take a further uncomfortable turn.
“My name is – Stalker.” Stalker! I think every episode of Criminal Minds just flashed through my mind in 2.5 seconds. Serial killer senses just shot up. “I manage a lot of restaurants…. What do you do?”
“Teach.” Did not say where. Still, teaching is safe answer since most foreigners are teachers.
His expression grew wry and he stared at me. “And you can afford to live in this area?”
“You’re the first black person I’ve seen in this building. First black woman in this area actually. I’ve been living here about 15 years. Really, there are no black people around here.” Emphasis on there being no black people here.
“Okay,” I answered tentatively. Like what are you trying to say? I loved this area. Have been living here for a while and never met you before. Have not had any problems.
“Do you live by yourself?”
“No.” To high heavens, no! Would tell a tale on that up and down the street all day. Why am I not on the first floor yet?
“Don’t worry. I’m married to a Russian woman. We’ve been living here for 9 years.”
I’m all kinds of worried. Mr. Stalker goes to pull out a cigarette. Mind you, you’re not supposed to smoke in elevators. He looks at me with this insane smirk.
“Yea, I do all the bad things. Do you mind if I smoke?”
Ding. The sound of elevator doors opening never sounded so sweet!
When I tell you I got off the elevator so fast. I dashed off, eyes straining behind me without turning my head, to see what direction he was going and making sure I went the opposite.
Now some of you may have handled this elevator scene different. May not have been so polite. I would have no disagreements, but it was little ole me—barely over five feet, squeaky voice, who looks like a kid when I go make-up free. I was focused on getting out of the elevator and not being dragged off onto one of the many floors below.
This was by far my most troubling elevator experience. I’m sure we’ve had our fair share of odd elevator conversations. Maybe you've had even weirder exchanges. What’s the strangest encounter you’ve had in an elevator? Feel free to share below.