Saturday, October 20, 2012

Elevator of Life

The time after lunch is always the slowest time of the day. Everyone seems to slow down, as if their lunch had weigh them down and anasthetize the urgency of work. On that day, I was feeling the same way as I ambled towards the lift. A girl and a man was already waiting in front of the lift before I joined them. She was standing close to a small LCD mounted on the wall, spinning advertisements after advertisement. The man was tinkering with his phone. We were all ignoring each other as we waited for the lift.

After staring at the display number of the floor counting down so slowly, I got bored and looked around. In the distant I saw an old man in dark blue suits with purple tie, his shoes tapping on the marble floor as he walked towards the lift. His face was a constellation of wrinkles and furrows, his eyes deep in concentration on his stern and rigid face. I quickly looked away and making an excuse to take another lift or even the stairs. The stairs! That's 21 floors. While I was torn between the physical torture climbing the stairs or the psychological torture of being stuck in the same lift as the old man who was almost approaching, the lift opened. The man and the girl step in, while I waited uncertainly outside. The girl raised her eyebrows, jerking her head, as if asking why am I standing outside. Meanwhile the old man had arrived and stepped past me, into the lift. Nevertheless, I decided to take lift.

"Hello boss," I said as I walked into the lift. I heard the old man replied a gruff. Or maybe it was the sound of his breathing? Anyways I wasted no time and quickly got into the back corner of the lift to avoid any contact with the old man. There were four of us, the old man with the girl behind her was on the left while the man with the phone and I were standing on the right. I stare straight into the man's back. At least I tried to, only I caught from the corner of my eye that the girl was staring at me. Her fingers jabbed the air, pointing at the old man in front of her. She then mouthed silently, "Your bos?"

I nodded. Maybe my face was so worried that the girl laughed, before patting the air in my direction. It took me a while before I understood that she was consoling me and was mouthing the word, "There, there." It felt ridiculous, so I laughed. The man with the phone turned his head around at us, so we pretended to stare dead ahead. At the fifth floor, the man with the phone stepped out and to my relief, my boss followed. His face was still deep in concentration and he didn't look back at me at all. The door then closed.

"How is he like?" said a voice. I turned.
"Who?" I asked.
"Who else," she said. "Your bos lah."
"Oh, he is not really my boss. He is my boss, but there is another boss. So he is my boss' boss, so . . ." I stopped myself because by then I sounded silly.
"But how is he like?" she continued asking. I was silent, thinking of an answer, when she added, "I know you've met him before. You didn't want to be in the same lift, right?"
"Is he always like that?" I asked suddenly.
"Like what?"
"Like this," I said as I creased my brows and crossed my eyes. I also exhaled a few puff  in exaggaration for effect. She laughed.

The door opened at the 10th floor and a cleaner with her trolley glided into the lift. The girl sobered up and said, "I don't know. Maybe." She smiled, "What do other people say of him?"
"Well," I replied, "people said he had constipation when he was a child, and hasn't recovered since."
The girl roared into laughter.

The lift arrived at the 15th floor and the cleaner got off with her trolley, all the while eyeing the girl who can't stop laughing. "I've never heard anyone said something 'over' like that!" she said to me. I didn't know what to say so I just shrugged.
"Everyone in my office says so," I said.
"And what do you think about him? Your, boss' boss," she asked.
"I think. I think, he just needs a little holiday," I said after a pause. She looked at me solemnly and nodded her head.
The door then opened. "So this is my floor," she said as she stepped out. The door then began to close.

"Hey!" I said. I stopped the door and she turned back around. "Hey, urm, do you mind having lunch sometime?"
She paused for a while. Quite a while. (Years later she told me she deliberately took her time, just to make me sweat.)
"Yeah," she replied shortly before walking off.

I let the door closed before I realised I forgot to ask her number. Or her company. Or her name. When the lift arrived at my floor,I went straight to my desk and asked my friend, Chin, about the girl who was working on the 19th floor.
"What girl? So many girls in building la," he said. I gave a description of the girl but Chin only shook his head and said he didn't know her. I was about to ask someone else when the boss called me and it slipped out of my mind. Only after working hour, did it came back to me, when I saw the girl again. She was getting into a car and I got a glimpse of her before the driver closed her door. A few minutes later, the old man(my boss' boss) went across the lobby and into the same exact car. The car drove off instantly.

My mouth was still gaping wide a minute later and it took another five minutes before I calmed down.

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