Hate in an Elevator
Jul 7 2013
Photo by Flickr User lrargerich
While some poor souls are forced to smoke to escape the drudgery of their jobs, I’m lucky to work in a creative field where I can smoke weed while I work. Nothing inspires my creativity better than a strong sativa rolled with nasty, delicious tobacco. I tend to roll a little spliff, hit it once or twice, let it go out as I keep writing, and rediscover it 15 minutes later. This method worked pretty well until I started working with guys who make my smoking habit look like a dying ember.
I used to work at VICE’s Brooklyn headquarters, but I recently changed jobs, landing a new creative gig in Manhattan. I’m 29. In this game that makes me an old fart with nowhere near the professional stamina and weed consumption abilities of the younger dudes I work with. These massively productive beasts work every waking hour, and they get through the day passing around big blunts filled with super-potent flavors carried by some of the pricier local delivery services. When we began working together in the same office, their regimen blew my modest procedure to smithereens. I’d come in with my donut and cup of tea, get started on my tasks, and twist-up the customary. As soon as the smell got around, the guys would go, “Ohhh shit, it’s that time!” and thus the first blunt would be rolled. My routine became the unwitting trigger for a smoke-fest that fueled us all into overdrive—or at least, them into overdrive and me into a half an hour of r/woahdude, then overdrive for about an hour, and then more r/woahdude. It was this very downward spiral I was trying to avoid last week when I decided to pop out for a cigarette and clear my head, avoiding the temptation of tasty blunt number three that was currently in progress just feet behind me.
Manhattan is a city in the sky, and at any given moment during the workweek, millions of people do their shit well above ground level. Our connection to the surface is mediated by perhaps the most important invention of the 19th century other than the light bulb: the elevator. In 1857, the first passenger elevator was installed in Manhattan. For all I know, the one I ride everyday might have been that same one.
I waited for the rickety-ass elevator to fetch me from the fourth floor. Finally, the elevator arrived and urgently opened its door, as if gasping for air. I stepped in and hit 1. The elevator descended to the third floor and the door clanked open again, giving way to a little 100-year-old Chinese man holding a plastic shopping bag, who promptly entered the elevator and hit at least six different buttons. I watched over his shoulder as he needlessly fucked with the panel, my cigarette dancing as I mouthed the words, “Man, what the fuck are you doing?” The door closed, and I was in the middle of shaking my head when the elevator stopped dead. The old man looked at me. “Yeah, I don’t think we are moving, man,” I said. He stared at me blankly, revealing that he spoke no English, and went right back to hitting the panel's buttons.
“Yo, don’t hit the fucking buttons man, that’s not going to help anything,” I said. He continued bumbling with the buttons, because if I wasn’t speaking his language, then I must not have been saying anything at all. I put my hands between him and the panel, and he finally stopped and stepped away. Finding no phone number or inspection card in the elevator, I called my co-worker upstairs who, despite being blunted, sprang into action, quickly finding there would be no easy solution. This was the moment when the possibility of being stuck in this thing for more than a few minutes began to seem real, and my stonedness prompted a vague inkling of claustrophobia that began to materialize in the back of my neck. Not only was I stuck in a metal box, but I was with the moron who I’m pretty sure caused this catastrophe—I started to get pissed. Turning away from the old man, I repeatedly muttered, "Shitfuck" under my breath in frustration.
The old geezer who got me in this mess.
This scared the shit out of the old guy, who sort of cowered into the corner. I apologized for scaring him, promised him we’d be out of here soon, and dialed 911. As the dispatcher connected me to the fire department, the old man dutifully reported back to the panel and starting fucking with the buttons again. Right when the fire department picked up, I was yelling, “Dude, are you trying to fucking kill us?!?” The guy on the phone overlooked this exclamation, probably because he knew I was stuck in an elevator. I gave him the address, told him what floor we were on, and quickly hung up the phone so I could stare down the old guy, who was looking at me the way a dog looks at his owner after it shits in the house.
20 minutes later, with no prior technical knowledge of elevator mechanics, I had concluded that the old man had singlehandedly killed the elevator by overwhelming it with his button-pushing, and any further button-pushing would inevitably cause the straps or hooks or whatever to break and send us plummeting to our deaths. What pissed me off most was that this fucker had nothing to lose. Judging by his exterior, he had spent at least a century on this earth, carrying things in plastic bags, trapping innocent people in elevators, and god knows what else. Until that point, my prerogative was to save us both, but I had amended that—if it came down to it, I would dismember the old man and weave his intestines into a rope to lower myself to safety.
Just then, I heard sirens pull up outside the building. As I strained to listen for the voices of the firefighters, the old man decided it would be a perfect time to call his wife and make his stupidity her problem as well. He sounded exasperated on the phone, completely unable to retain even an ounce of decorum in a tough situation. After 80 years with this shithead, you’d think his wife would see this elevator debacle as a miracle, hang up, and pray to her gods to finish the job. Instead, she joined him in a chorus of immensely loud whining, on speakerphone, echoing throughout the metal box and seriously fucking up my role in the rescue effort. At long last, I told him to shut the fuck up. I followed that with, “And I know you know what that means, because you’ve definitely been hearing it your entire life.” He complied. The firefighters arrived on the other side of the elevator door, asked us a few questions, and started working on getting it open. It seemed to take a while, and I’m not sure if the old man felt it, but it was definitely kind of awkward in there. I mean, I had just yelled at an old man. I felt bad and looked over at him. He was sweating. He leaned against the wall and uttered the first English words I had heard out of him. Clutching his shirt with one hand and wiping his brow with the other, he looked at me pathetically and said, "It's very hot..."
My expression turned right back to irritated—I said, “Oh hell no, don’t you start with that shit now.” I called to the firefighters, “Get me the fuck out of here. This old guy is starting to freak out,” which in retrospect probably sounded pretty selfish. As soon as the door sprang open, I said to the firemen, “Five more minutes and I would’ve eaten this guy.” They got a good laugh out of it. The Chinese guy mumbled some acknowledgement of me and sped out of the room, surely to go piss off some other complete stranger. The firemen quickly showed me how to pop open the elevator door from the inside for future reference. I thanked them and said I had to get back to work. One of them said, “Oh, is your office on the fourth floor? I don’t know how long you were stuck in the elevator, but you better get back up there. They’re having a party.”
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