Al Batt: The elevator never starts without a jerk

Published 9:24 pm Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tales From Exit 22 by Al Batt

I got into a crowded elevator at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

No GPS was needed.

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I was happy to be on that elevator. It picked me up when I was down. It had boarded its platinum elite frequent elevating members first. I’m a dirt member, so I had to sneak on.

It had to get on. The elevator never starts without a jerk.

I travel a lot by elevator. It can be challenging. It has its ups and downs. There is a lot to remember. The 10th floor comes after the ninth floor on the way up, but before the ninth on the way down. And pressing the two plus the three button doesn’t take anyone to the fifth floor.

The elevator was packed with people. We were like sardines, only not as oily. There was room for about 10 people in the elevator or for one person carrying an umbrella.

My fellow up-and-down travelers were as to be expected, concerned, with minds occupied with problems and possible problems. We were going up, which wasn’t an escape route. We were headed to the oncology department.

It was easy to feel like someone who had only a fork in world of soup or like Lucy and Ethel dealing with chocolates on a rushing conveyor belt. Some might have even been suffering from elevator lag.

I tried not to say anything, but I couldn’t keep silent. I was too tired to be still. I was already tired plus when I’d driven by the Tires Plus store earlier.

“I wish they had a restroom in this elevator,” I said.

A hush fell over the crowd.

A fellow dropped his eyeglasses not once, but twice.

I picked them up once. He grabbed them the second time. I drop things, too. We all drop things — unless we never carry anything. I’m always happy when whatever I drop doesn’t break.

A woman pressed a floor’s button more than once in the hopes of getting it to hurry.

Maybe I should have said, “How about a group hug?” Or “Is that your rattlesnake?”

Then a couple of folks laughed and commented kindly. One seconded my wish.

Making small talk is something to do while waiting for an elevator door to open. I have one mouth and two ears, so I have to talk twice as much as I listen, just to even things out. I could rotate like a rotisserie chicken while wearing my “I know stuff” T-shirt, but I choose not to. I talk. I talk because I’m not a mime and in a previous life, I trained sales people. I taught normal folks how to do an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a brief, persuasive speech used to spark interest in what a person is selling. It can be used to create interest in a project, idea, product or in you. An elevator pitch should be interesting, memorable and succinct. It needs to explain what makes you, your organization, product, idea or project unique or worthy of further investigation. A good elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 30 seconds, hence the name.

People moved in and out of the Mayo elevator. It was a game of musical chairs without music or chairs.

Life is like an elevator. You have to stop and let people on and off.

I had a dream about an elevator door opening and it was filled with stairs. Elevators frighten a friend. He is taking steps to get over his fear.

In a world of stranger danger, I talk to strangers. It’s the only way to get rid of strangers. I talk to them and they’re no longer strangers. Perhaps one will be a rich, eccentric billionaire who’d reward me for my friendliness.

Why do I do it?

I think it’s because my mother talked to strangers. Mom talked to anyone ahead or behind her in a line.

I do that, too. It feels like the normal thing to do. Experience we have as kids seems normal.

My mother showed me that you could be friendly to those you don’t know without being involved in a multilevel marketing scheme.

A friend is quiet. He’ll never use two words when one will do. He likes knowing people just well enough to not to speak to them. I can be quiet, but I usually choose not to be.

Someone asked my wife what she’d do if I suddenly became someone who rarely talked.

My bride answered, “We’d go out in public more often.”

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.