Episode # 3 “Elevator Wars”

Episode # 3 “Elevator Wars” examines our behavior waiting for an elevator and how people really push Daniel’s buttons.  Of course, he pushes them right back!”

Welcome to Talking Joints! I’m Daniel Malito, or, at least, that’s the name my mom writes in my underwear, and, unfortunately, I never purchased the extended warranty for any of my joints.  Recently, I was standing in the hospital, waiting to head upstairs, and I noticed something shocking.  It seems that people are less likely to trust someone disabled. Rheumatoid Arthritis, or really any disease, can make a person, examine the things they do much closer than if they were healthy, and this is why I notice all the stupid things that go on, and there’s no end in sight.

One day, as I walked up to the hospital elevator area, I realized I just missed the lift and it had literally closed its doors as I walked up.  I, of course, yelled the obligatory “hold that,” but I knew it wasn’t going to happen.  For some reason, people always have an attitude towards anyone trying to catch the elevator.  “Hrmph! Hold the door? I don’t think so time waster.”  Chances are you’ve been guilty of it yourself, probably thinking “I’m not holding the door for them, they should have made it on time.  Probably was out late selling crack to babies or something.”  You know it’s true. You probably wanted the elevator to yourself, and we’ve all done it, and we keep on doing it, that is, unless we see a mother with a newborn, or an old man with a cane, then we rush to press the correct button to hold the door.  Unfortunately, finding the correct button within the time limit is nerve racking. It’s like taking one of those fifth-grade IQ tests.  “Left arrow line right arrow? Right arrow line left arrow?  Up arrow line down arrow? What is this, a Wonkavator?”  You literally have five frantic seconds to find the right symbol, and you’re terrified that you’ll hit the wrong one and crush the mother and baby death.  So what do we usually end up doing?  Pressing the wall of the elevator and giving the old man that face, you know the one, it says, “Oh, no, I tried but the cryptic symbols on these buttons were just too hard for me to figure out in the time allowed. Sorry, I don’t respond well to pressure!”  Forgetting the entire time that all we had to do was simply stick out an arm or a leg, but that’s counter intuitive.  Even though, to date, exactly zero people have bled to death from having their limbs torn off by a closing elevator door.

Anyway, it was while outside the elevator that my epiphany happened.  I was the only one waiting for the lift at first, and so I pressed the up button.  Satisfied with myself, I stepped back, and waited for the elevator approximately teen feet from the entrance, as most of us do, in order to let others disembark before we get on.  I say most of us, because we’ve all seen that man or woman who simply can’t wait for anyone else to get off before they push their way on to the car like it was the last lifeboat on the Titanic.  Clawing their way past people in wheelchairs and knocking small children aside, we always think the same thing about these people “How rude, didn’t their parents teach them any manners? Probably raised by Charles Manson.”

So, as I was waiting for the lift car to return, a woman walked up, paused, and then pressed the up elevator button.  This confused me, as the button was clearly lit up already, and even a five-year-old knows the difference between light on and light off.  She looked at me as she stepped back the requisite ten feet, and gave me that obligatory smile, you know, the one that says “don’t worry, I don’t think you’re an idiot for being disabled, I just don’t trust any button until I’ve pressed it myself.”  Of course, I did the same thing we all do, and sheepishly said, “yeah, should be here soon.”  Ha! I told her! We always say something like that, don’t we?  Even though the person who presses the button again clearly shown some mental deficiency, we feel compelled to re-assert the fact that we did it first!  And we always say it loud enough to make sure everyone in the general area can hear.  “Yeah it’s coming, cause I pressed it first, damn right, yeah this guy knows the deal!”  God forbid anyone thinks we were dumb enough to press a button that was already lit.

So, as I’m standing there, waging this ridiculous elevator button cold war, a man walks up, and despite the half a dozen people waiting, he presses the up button! I was stunned, but I knew I had to make a move so that all the new spectators saw I pressed the button before anyone.  I couldn’t have complete strangers thinking I was the dumb one.  So, I opened my mouth and just as I was about to say, “ya I pressed it,” I heard a woman’s voice say “oh, I pressed it, already” and smiled. Judas!  Now everyone thinks I’m the putz who pressed the button second and she’s the one who was there first.  What was she playing at?  Everyone knows that only the person who pressed the button first is allowed to speak for the group.  Ugh! I felt everyone’s eyes on me, and they were whispering things to each other like “Oh he must have pressed the button second. Probably disabled in the brain. ” “I heard he also clubs baby seals on the weekend.”

Finally the elevator arrived and I waited until everyone got off, because I’m not an animal, and shuffled onto the car, feeling like I showed up to class naked. As A final act of defiance, I pressed all the floor buttons as I got off. No one makes me look like a lit-button presser without serious, imaginary, consequences.

Doing ridiculous things is not the exclusive domain of the disabled. We have all had our own elevator saga, it’s what makes us human.  The fact that people have an inherent fear and mistrust of things that are different, is something psychologists have known about for years and it won’t ever change.  So, fight back, have fun with it, speak up, and above all else, those of you out there lucky enough to be healthy, try to stifle your urge to treat those who are different like black sheep.  It’s baaaad. Thanks for listening, I’m Daniel Malito and these are Talking Joints.