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Talking to strangers on elevators was fun… until the pandemic hit

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I really miss small talking with strangers, especially on elevators, and what I called “the elevator dance.” I know how most people think when they get on an elevator, at least in office buildings.

You’re not that sneaky! I know you heard me walking in. I can see you, hovering in the corner, while hitting that “close door” button, at a rate of 21 times per second, to avoid the awkward experience of looking anywhere except at another person.

Although, I love small talk, especially in confined spaces like elevators. (A moment here for a huge kvell to all of you, living in retirement homes, stuck in small spaces. You are true warriors!)

Pre-Covid, one of my hobbies was waiting for someone, anyone, to share an elevator ride with. I always find it entertaining, frankly, to watch people squirm, but I’ve genuinely met some very interesting people on elevators. Now that we have to wear masks, and a limited amount of people are allowed on elevators, I am kvetching I can no longer strike up conversations with random people.

Oh, believe me, I know how awkward sharing an elevator ride can be. I was once stuck on an elevator with Conrad Black for hours! Okay, I’m exaggerating slightly. I wasn’t so much “stuck” as I just “happened” to be on the same elevator… to the third floor.

The ride was, in reality, was probably about 45 seconds, but, to me, it felt like four hours. I had said, “Hi!” only because it seemed rude and more awkward than not, to say nothing, to someone who was essentially my boss, and who founded the National Post.  

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I still don’t know which is more terrifying; skydiving, or that damn elevator ride with my buddy Conrad (He’s not really my buddy, but meh!)

“How are you?” he responded.

“I’m good. How are you?”

“I’m well. It’s very (blank) today,” Conrad responded.  

I had no clue, not one iota, what that “blank” word he used meant. It was a very l-o-n-g word that I had never heard, thus I couldn’t respond, although my armpits did, sweating profusely.

I raced out of that elevator, as quickly as I once did on a horrible blind date, where the guy ordered orange juice for dinner, and talked only about his allergies.

If you know even the basics of Conrad Black, you know he has his own polysyllabic language, and I’m no Miriam Webster. But let’s kvell me here, using a big word, like “polysyllabic.” (Which you can look up later.)

That elevator ride haunts me because while I don’t remember the exact word my buddy Conrad used, I do remember thinking, “How do you respond when you don’t know what the person is saying? What if his cat just died?”

Photo: Arisa Chattasa (Unsplash)

I raced directly to my computer. Do you know what Conrad Black meant with whatever that polysyllabic word he used during that (seemingly) fourteen-hour ride to the third floor, which felt like the 30th floor?

It meant…“spring-like.”

The dude was saying the weather was nice outside. Inwardly I blasted, “great, Eckler. You made such a great impression. Not!”

But, mostly, I was pissed! “Why the hell didn’t he just say, ‘it feels like Spring?’”

Yet, thanks to that experience with just Conrad Black (kvelling!) it propelled me, from that day forward, to think of every single future interaction on elevators as entertainment. I would become the best elevator small talker that had ever lived!

I’m the first to kvetch, “wear a damn mask, you idiots,” while also kvetching that by having to wear a mask, I miss those small talk moments.

But allow me to digress; I recently read a quote: “Drunk women in washrooms are some of the most supportive and empowering people in the planet.” It’s funny because it’s so true. The same could be said for being sober and talking to strangers in elevators. Pre-COVID, I did meet some pretty awesome drunk women in the confined space of restrooms.

Once, after “Tequila Rebecca” complimented a woman on her fabulous enviable breasts in a Yorkville restaurant washroom, not only did she ask me if I wanted to touch them, which of course I did, I told her I’d been thinking of getting a lift, so I would never have to wear a bra.

She told me not to, and that my natural boobs were at least a 7/10, so getting a boob lift wasn’t worth the expense or recovery.

How could I not kvell at her 7/10 breast- rating? It turned out she worked for probably Toronto’s most well-known cosmetic surgeon. She was an expert! A very drunk expert!

She did “support me” (pun intended) to buy better bras, and empowered me to love my natural breasts.

Once, I met a woman sobbing hysterically in the shared washroom on the floor of my office (pre-COVID). “You look like you really need a hug,” I said to this woman, adding, “I give really good pep talks!”

Within ten minutes, I knew just as much more about her life than I did my colleagues who sat near me, for years. Her boyfriend had cheated on her, they had just broken up, she had plans to go to Italy, her shade of nail polish. I even learned her dog’s name! All I had said to her, was what I would say to any girlfriend, or my teenage daughter, which was, “why do you want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with you?”

It turned out that was all the support she needed. I empowered her to be positive; she was going to meet someone who wasn’t an asshole. She then invited me to a different floor, where she actually worked. It turned out she is a painter and shared the space with a number of artists.

She was so grateful for my pep-talk, she insisted on giving me a painting that I loved, for free. I kvell to this day, whenever I walk by her work, on how generous she was. All because we met in a confined space. 

What to do if you’re stuck in an elevator

On another elevator ride, at work, I complimented a stranger’s shoes. She complimented my coat. I asked her what she did, and I learned she worked for a company that makes hair extensions. As I was getting off, she called out. “come up anytime! My name is Sandra. I’ll give you 50 per cent off!”

The only elevator I’ve been on, in recent months, is in my boyfriend’s condo. He lives on a high floor and pre-COVID, I had met a Navy Seal, who I learned could kill me, because I asked, “so could you kill me?” on our shared elevator ride. Whenever I see him, I call out, “Hey Navy Seal!”

I also have shared enough elevator rides with one woman, engaging in small talk, to know she was planning her fortieth birthday. 

I ended up taking her number, and later that day, texted her a number of potential venues. She invited me to come. But, truthfully, I rather keep these “relationship” to “elevator ride friend” status.

Now, when I ride the elevator from the parking garage, and it stops on the main floor, I usually see a number of masked people (kvell to you!) who wave, the new etiquette signal for, “I’ll take the next one,” which has become so routine, it doesn’t even seem impolite, even if I’m alone and wearing a mask. 

I’m not offended. This is our current reality. But I kvetch I’m left only to wave at the security camera, to the friendly doorman, to provide elevator entertainment. I kvell at people keeping their distance.

I do believe it’s common sense to avoid elevators with people, but never would I have thought I’d be kvetching over elevator rides with strangers, including the one with Conrad Black.

Rebecca Eckler is the internationally bestselling author of ten books, including Knocked Up, How to Raise a Boyfriend, and Blissfully Blended Bullshit. She is the Executive Editor of SavvyMom.ca

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Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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