Elevator Emotions

On negotiating this modern intimacy.

I prefer being alone. I press my floor and then I’m soon there. But this world is, at times verily, populated with other people. Other people whose choice in perfume may be too cloyingly sweet. People whose bathing or grooming rituals may be on the casual side. People hell bent on going to floors which are not mine. When somebody comes into the (in my head, “my”) elevator and presses a floor which is before mine, thus prolonging my day, however nominally, I experience mild yet deeply sincere derision for them. I know this is irrational. Their face, however human, bends into a farm animal.

When an attractive woman and I share a ride, seemingly longer due to the former’s presence, I become suddenly hyper-conscious of where I am or am not looking. Every spot on which my gaze falls seems almost sarcastically absurd, as if both of us knew that I would have preferred to simply stare at her — without conquest or sociopolitical assertion, simply as a dying man might somberly look at his last sunset — a vision of her face whose surrogate image is projected in my mind as a Platonic shadow. She is often engaged with her smart phone, slim fingers deftly “flicking” her feed downwards, backwards in time, making sure she’s caught up with all the unimportant things.

I like the right side, in the back corner, when the elevator becomes crowded. It is odd yet existentially endearing, perhaps even beautiful, to think of how a group of strangers who would otherwise never share a silent minute or two in a metal box now have this moment together, and to dismiss this moment as either a modern inconvenience or banal imperative throughout their day, into the week, into the months which tumor into the full metastasis of their lives. Strangers, each one of us, coursing through the labyrinth of a city built on promise but fated for collapse, of tall buildings whose direction dare infer the heavens, if only one floor at a time.

When somebody’s behind backs up too far and brushes up against my crotch area, I feel a tingle of violation through my entire body, up through my spine into the boiling pot of my cranium, as if I’m being “air raped” or something. Humiliation is best sealed with closed eyes, and I hold my breath imagining how pale, white, and lumpy this ass might look without the reprieve of clothing. Such nakedness will invoke our biblical expulsion from Eden, so long ago those teenagers ruined everything, now we the punished are forever ashamed of our bodies, and one another’s. Thank you dear God for pants.

When the elevator stops en route downward to the lobby or upward to my destination floor, i.e. when my path is interrupted, I give my inoculator (vaguely, this person becomes simply “moron”) a passive-aggressive smile to confirm that while what they are doing is perfectly reasonable and within the constraints of social norms, they are still a minor disease, whose meager and hellish life has temporarily rubbed up against my own, the two of us silently looking up at our respective numbers signifying the identical yet irrevocably different tiers on which we get out.

There are times a moron greets me with a stare upon the opening doors to ask “Going down?” I either nod my head yes or shake it no, usually accompanied by a quick corroborative finger jut in the correct direction, though I want desperately to ask this person if they are aware of the light mechanism in front of the elevator doors on every floor, the ones which light up in correlation with the shaft’s vector. I want to ask them why they are so lazy a human being they cannot tilt their thick neck up 15° and find out for themselves.

And now when this person approaches the elevator with such a painfully slow bovine gait that they trigger the mechanism which automatically retracts the closing doors in order to give them a “second chance” at walking a measly 6-8 ft. to enter the elevator, a failure always accompanied by a semi-embarrassed grin of insincere apology, I imagine calmly using a firearm on myself, one administered to the head, from which a messy red thought bubble splattered on the wall behind my once standing body with the caption omfg may come. TC mark

image – Ninja Noodles


More From Thought Catalog

  • http://twitter.com/Erikhaspresence Erik Stinson


  • Sophia

     The best is trying to defy elevator social norms – try standing in locations that are not expected relative to the number of people in the elevators. It elicits interesting awkward reactions. Am I weird for finding this amusing? (probably)

    • Caitlin

      Facing the wrong direction in an elevator is strangely entertaining. Especially if you make eye contact with anyone else who is on there. No one knows how to handle it.

  • Nosehairs


    • http://jimmychenchen.com/ Jimmy Chen

      nosehairs descending a staricase, no. 2

  • http://twitter.com/iamsubmerged Jordana Bevan

    jimmy chen, such a riot

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ENFVAJYPOJQB435XXUOSCOLZSQ Anjely

    I thoroughly enjoyed this… Right up until that overly dramatic and grotesque ending… That rather ruined my enjoyment. 

    • http://deejberndt.blogspot.com DJ Berndt

      is it a Bananafish reference?

      • J.D.

        doubt it.

  • Valisa Nelson

    Terrible article. Your vernacular is the only thing interesting here. Why share such a miserable attitude about life? Brush up on your Palahniuk.

  • http://newhandsweepstakes.com/contributors/brian-mcelmurry/ Brian M


  • Roy

    They say that nature tilts the balance to take care of things such as overpopulation and insanity. Sometimes it’s an asteroid that kills off a species, sometimes the species blows its collective brains out to say OMFG in elevators. As good a way to go as any.

  • Guest

    “… throughout their day, into the week, into the months which tumor into the full metastasis of their lives.” I love this analogy; it’s subtleties like this that make Jimmy Chen such a superb writer. This was truly a pleasure to read.

  • Guest

    a quote from this was written and taped to the inside of an elevator in my building.

  • Guest


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