Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ms. Crab-Pee

It’s 5:30; time to go home. I push the button and wait for the elevator. The doors open to reveal my boss and her husband. I get in and press 1. We engage in small talk about the approaching holidays, the colder weather, and deliberate when the clocks need to be turned back an hour (I have no idea). As we’re talking, I feel the elevator slow down. Damn. We’re stopping. I look at the digital display. It’s seven, the creepy floor. Double damn.

The creepy floor gets its name from the people that work there (and visit it). I don’t know if it’s a doctor’s office, an accountant’s office, or maybe even a nursing home. I do know that their waiting area features some of the ugliest furniture ever duct-taped together and that there isn’t a single incandescent bulb to be found. Every worker is bathed under harsh fluorescent lighting. I also know that their receptionist is miserable (a dead ringer for Ms. Crabtree from South Park, shown). I’ve watched her sit angrily at her desk, permanent frown pasted on her face. Her coworkers, however odd, complement her perfectly: bad clothes, secretive behavior (no eye contact) and, in a few cases, body odor, which is downright deadly in an elevator.

The doors open on the creepy floor. It’s the receptionist—and she’s her usual cranky self, but tonight, she is weighed down by a half dozen shopping bags. As she waddles in, I notice instantly that she smells like pee. She crams her short, wide body into the corner of the elevator, faces her back to us, and presses 1, which was, of course, already lit up.

At the first floor, the doors open. I step aside to let my boss and her husband off, extending my arm out the opening. (I’m still working on my elevator etiquette.) A low voice emanates from the corner, like a troll. “Keep going.”

Puzzled, I look down to see that the receptionist still has her back to us, but is craning her neck to look back at us, while holding the door open. I look at my boss; we are frozen for an instant.

“Keep going, keep going!” she yells, louder each time. There is a sense of alarm in her voice usually reserved for action heroes who might find themselves holding back a dam, or holding a bus overhead so that the children can get off safely before it explodes. As the three of us rush out, I look at my boss. We have the same look of shock on our faces as we try not to laugh.

I think I’ll start taking the freight elevator from now on.

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