Unable to see who it is making the request, I respond, “No reason to run; I got it,” leisurely extending my arm into the elevator’s doorway, preventing the door from closing.
“Thank you,” she lightly pants.
If I knew it was her, I would have pressed the “close doors” button with no problem, no hesitation. (Editor’s note: Don’t judge me.)
She lives on the second floor, and I see her most mornings on my way to work. She always has this soured look on her face. Always. In the mornings, she pushes both the up and down buttons to signal the elevator; she often rides up a few floors and then back down, stopping once again on her floor, before she actually reaches the lobby. Such a circuitous route to get to the ground floor can be frustrating; yet, she continually pushes both buttons. Her fault.
Along with her sadden look, she is borderline rude; I say “Good morning” to her each time I see her, and she does not respond, not even a grunted response or a head nod to acknowledge that she heard me. Nothing. For a while, I stopped saying anything, but after a few silent, awkward rides together, I returned to saying “Good morning” with continued futility. Strangely, if there is someone else in the elevator, she would make small talk with them, but never with me.
Needless to say, when I see her my attitude changes; I can feel my body tense up.
“Isn’t today a beautiful day?” I casually throw out into the shared space.
“I hate the weekends,” she begins.
Thankfully, she lives on the second floor, I think to myself.
“I don’t like the weekends because I have nothing to do anymore.” There is a slight pause, which causes me to look at her in her eyes.
She turns her head to face me, both eyes locked onto mine.
“Since my husband died last month, I’ve been lonely. And on the weekend, there is just too much free time. Normally, we would be all over the city.” She talks with her hands, and her brief, playful gesture of being “all over the city” demonstrates the fun that she no longer has, but wants.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I respond, offering my condolences as fleeting solace for the immense pain that she must feel on a daily basis with the prominent absence of her beloved husband.
The sound of the elevator alerts us that we have reached the second floor, breaking our oddly intimate time as once “beefing” neighbors. I was convinced she hated me or, if I am being truthful with myself, I disliked her. But now…
“Thank you,” she musters, walking through the doorway.
With my friends, I playfully say, “Don’t judge me,” when I say something that may evoke their judgment as I did earlier in this post.
This seemingly ordinary elevator reinforced that I need follow my own command.