(For The Daily Prompt: Isn’t Your Face Red)
Sometimes there is no getting out of embarrassing moments and especially when you are in a crowded elevator. There is nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide, nowhere to bury your face and where seconds can seem like hours. This is one of those stories.
It was back in the 1980’s in NYC. I was at my job waiting in front of an elevator where I was part of a carpentry maintenance crew for Citibank’s, 399 Park Ave Home Office building. We were union and proud and had an exclusive contract taking care of various repair jobs inside the building’s offices and lobbies. There was no job too small for us and we sometimes spent hours and even days sitting around waiting for something to do.
A sweet job but it was better than being outside on a physically demanding new high-rise building going up in the sweltering heat of a NYC summer.
I was on the 10th floor and had to meet my big boss on the 29th floor. “Hurry up!” he screamed to me over the walkie-talkie, “It’s a rush job and they need it done within the next hour!”
My anxiety began to run high. When you had an exclusive contract like we had you did not want to disappoint the client. So I positioned myself right in front of the elevator so I could be the first one in.
That was a mistake.
As soon as the elevator doors opened I rushed in but quickly found myself maneuvering behind a pretty, young woman who had refused to move. The elevator was unusually crowded for that time of day – cattle car crowded. I could swear I almost heard the sound of mooing.
As the elevator doors closed I glanced over at the floor selection panel and counted the round buttons lit up. Only four were lit. “Twenty-nine, please.” I requested loudly. A gentleman in a finely tailored suit pressed the button for me.
As the elevator began to move, I looked down at my watch. Only an hour and a half until it was time to go home. Rush jobs, they would always seem to come at the end of the day.
As the elevator stopped at each floor, and for what seemed like an eternity, my anxiety grew. My boss wasn’t a patient man, and if he got a complaint about your work and especially tardiness consider yourself in trouble. I looked down at the panel again, only one floor to go before mine.
As the elevator reached the twenty-ninth floor and the doors began to open, I quickly sprung my heels into action. The elevator was still crowded though, and there really wasn’t anywhere to maneuver around to get out. So I just looked at the pretty, young woman who was still standing in front of me and said, “Excuse me.” She didn’t move. I said it again: “Excuse me, ma’am.” She still didn’t move and had no reaction at all. So I said it one more time as the elevator doors were beginning to close but this time a lot louder and with a much more demanding tone.
“Excuse me, please!”
She still didn’t move. Beginning to lose my patience and realizing that I was going to miss my floor I became frustrated and yelled at the woman “Lady, are you deaf or something!”
Suddenly everyone in the elevator turned towards me at the same time and yelled “YES SHE IS DEAF!”
I just stood there stunned. I could feel my face starting to get beat red and I just wanted to crawl inside myself and die. I felt like I was worth not even two-cents and I wanted to slap myself silly and let everyone in that elevator take a shot at me one by one. And I think a few of them wanted to anyway considering the way some of them were glaring at me.
I figured since I had already missed my floor I might just as well close my eyes and hope for the elevator to move fast and empty out quickly. Thankfully it did, but not before I got a few unpleasant looks from people turning around to look at me with killer eyes as they stepped out. Ironically, I found myself left in the elevator with the deaf woman.
As the elevator stopped at her floor and she began to get out, she turned around and looked at me and gave me the sweetest smile, then said something to me in sign language.
I don’t know what it was she said and what it meant, but it tortured me for years and had me wondering if she had put some curse on me for life. Now every time I get a little hard of hearing, I think back to that moment and wonder if God has punished me by making me go deaf just one decibel at a time for what happened in that elevator that day.
© Joseph Rathjen – All Rights Reserved – 2013
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