Monday, March 31, 2008

Four Men and an Elevator

I went to meet a friend for lunch today. She works in a big skyscraper in Century City.

Because it is a skyscraper, I had to check in at the front desk before I could go up to her office to meet her. I walked up to the reception desk and a man in a polyester faux-business suit (affordable and easy to clean, who can blame him?) was leaning on the counter not quite admitting belonging behind it.

"Do you work at this thing?" I said.

"Yes," he said, "How can I help you?"

"I'm here to see Irene Parisknova-Millicent Beane, please." [Name changed for publication.]

"Ah, yes. And your name?"

"Jean..." (He was waiting for something more...) "...Nnosullivan."

I was on a list so I was given clearance. He pointed behind me and now had an accent, French or Italian, something classy, "The elevators are just there, ma'am."

"Thank you!" I turned and went for the first bank of elevators I saw but was stopped by a man in a suit by the same maker but the pants were olive. (Designation: Security Guy.)

"What floor?"


"Not this one, that one, miss."

He gesture-herded me into the direction of the next bank of elevators, which I entered, intently passing Security Guy 2. Security Guy 2 followed within inches, "What floor - what floor, ma'am?"

"Forty." I didn't look back, stepped into the elevator, catching the doors' electric eye to thwart their attempt to close, and pressed the button but it didn't light up. There was a sixty-ish man in the elevator. He wore tan slacks and a peach colored sweater. White hair. Expensive clothing, too many too-white teeth for a man his age. The guard followed and pushed the button in a way that made it light up. I thanked him but was not sincere. My guess was he felt it, which put me a little on the defensive.

Alone in the elevator with the comfortably well off man, I said, "I'd never make it in this parta town." The silence lasted a floor or two, but perhaps my saying nothing more made him comfortable chancing engagement, "hmm?"

"Too many rules," I said, looking up at the numbers, "too uptight. Just to get onto an elevator took three approvals."

"Where do you live?" he asked.

"San Fernando Valley," I said.

"It's..." he looked down slightly, shook his head just a little, then up at me, to condescend: "It's 'The Valley', you don't say 'San Fernando', you just say 'The Valley.'"

At that point I didn't say anything. I just smiled.

"Where are you from - originally?" he said.

"I'm from the San Fernando Valley," I said.


"Yup! My whole life."

The elevators opened at floor 34 and he grunted as he left, eyes averted.

The doors closed on yet another rule.

Epilogue: Lunch was delicious! We ate beside the big green lawn.

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