May 8, 2013
The Unnecessary Elevator Passenger
If you have spent any time in the corporate world you know that people here sure do love meetings. I’m not sure if it’s loneliness or laziness or simply an ego-centric desire to have an audience. Either way, I find they are rarely necessary and that emailing a PowerPoint deck to a group of people and asking for their thoughts would generally be a much more efficient way to go about things. Nonetheless they are a fact of life and sooner or later all corporate hacks recognize that, if they are to get anything done during their official working hours, they need to block off a certain amount of time each day, lest they end up with eight to nine straight hours of back-to-back meeting. Taking it a step further, when a meeting shows up on my Outlook calendar, I’ve learned to block off the half hour before and after it. This guarantees that I’ll have at least a half hour free between meetings to make a yellow deposit, grab a cup of coffee (if necessary), and get to my next meeting on time, even if my last meeting runs overtime. Well, usually anyway.
It’s Thursday afternoon and I’m sitting in the large conference room on the 7th floor of the West Monroe building for my one o’clock with the Customer Loyalty and Retention group. As usual they are pitching their latest harebrained idea for keeping our customers from going to the competition. It's twelve minutes over the allotted hour and there is no sign this shit is gonna come to an end anytime soon. This concerns me greatly as my bladder is a good 20-30% over capacity. I actually haven’t heard a thing they've said over the last half hour as I've been too busy concentrating on not pissing my pants. Not that I haven’t heard it all before. Invariably these pitches all involve some bullshit VIP program for our “elite” customers which is really nothing more than a clever ploy to get them to opt-in to having us spam their email, send pounds of junkmail to their home, and call them at dinner time to ask if they would take a few moments to participate in a “short survey” (these “short” surveys take an average of twenty three minutes but I guess “few” and “short” are fairly subjective terms). As I look at the clock I’m starting to get really concerned that I won’t be able to make it to the bathroom before my two thirty with Media Relations which is over on the other side of the river at the South Wacker building. I’m not exactly sure what that one is about but I imagine it’s just as unnecessary as this one and probably as predictable. Invariably meetings with Media Relations involve listening to their latest harebrained idea for turning the good work our Community Services division is doing into an opportunity for free advertising, thus negating any shred altruism this firm may exhibit and completely destroying our credibility as a company that “gives back”. But I digress.
At 2:19 the meeting finally comes to an end and I head straight for the Men’s Room. Standing in front of the urinal, my bladder seconds from exploding like a water balloon, I reach into my pants and pull my entire package out just as my high pressure stream begins to pour forward. By the time it occurs to me that my sac is resting very uncomfortably on the teeth of my zipper it's too late to fix it and all I can do is wait until I'm empty.
At 2:23 I step out of the elevator and into the lobby, run for the door and start heading down West Monroe towards South Franklin. By the time I get to the Monroe Street Bridge I’m sweating which is causing my balls to sting rather badly on account of the shallow punctures in my scrotum from my zipper teeth. I persevere though and by 2:26 I’m stepping into the West Wacker building. I manage to get an elevator all to myself. What luck! I hit the button and the elevator launches towards the thirty ninth floor. It’s 2:27 and I anxiously watch the floor numbers flip away on the display panel – 5, 6, 7, 10, 14, 16. Suddenly the elevator begins to slow then stops on 19. What the fuck?! The door opens and in steps a portly fellow with no jacket, a loose tie, crooked glasses, and a partially untucked shirt. He extends his finger towards the button for his desired floor. Which one does he hit you ask? To what floor could this disheveled, sloppily dressed chap be going, your inquiring mind wants to know? Thirty? Forty? Fifty maybe? Oh hell no! This lazy, inconsiderate, good for nothing piece of dog shit is going to . . . are you ready for this??? He's going to TWENTY!!! He hits the button for the twentieth floor! Can you believe that? This motherfucker actually has the audacity to tie up an elevator in a fifty one story building full of busy people to go one floor! That's like twelve steps! This slothful sonovabitch couldn’t walk twelve fucking steps! Un-fucking-believable!!! Now I’ve seen this shit happen before and I’ve always just let it go but not this time! I follow him as he steps out on twenty.
“Um, excuse me,” I say politely and he turns around.
“I couldn’t help but notice that you got on at the 19th floor.”
“Okay,” he says, seemingly confused by why I would mention this.
“You do know this the twentieth floor, right?”
“Yeah, I know. I hit the button for it because that’s where I wanted to go.”
“I see. I see,” I say, “Wait long for the elevator?”.
“No, not too long, couple minutes. Two, maybe three.”
“Two or three minutes? Hmmm. You know there’s a staircase right over there. I’ve got to think it would have taken you less than three minutes to walk from the 19th to the twentieth floor. Probably less than a minute. Forty, forty-five seconds maybe.”
“Meh, you know. I’d rather just wait for the elevator. I wasn’t in any rush”
“Glad to hear that,” I say, “ I don’t know about you but I really hate rushing.”
“Yeah, tell me about it.”
“But forty five seconds is a lot less than three minutes.”
“I don’t know if I would call it ‘a lot’.”
“Oh no, it is,” I insist, “Four hundred percent less in fact. You would have gotten up here four hundred percent faster by taking the stairs. That’s definitely a lot.”
“Okay,” he says perplexedly.
“And you’ve got to admit that more faster is more better.”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“No, trust me,” I say, “Faster is always better.”
“You really should stop thinking that way or you’re gonna get yourself all stressed out. Slow it down. Enjoy the ride. That’s what I say.”
Not quite ready to unleash on him yet, I refrain from addressing his fucking asshole wisdom (as well as from punching him in his stupid mongoloid face) and instead ask, “So what exactly has brought you up here to the twentieth floor?”
“I just came up to see a buddy of mine”
“Oh, came up to see a buddy of yours. I see.”
“Yeah. His name’s Bill Michaels. You’d like him. He’s actually a lot like you, always wanting to get places in a hurry. I always tell him, ‘Bill you got to slow down and enjoy the ride’, kinda like I just told you. I remember this one time . . .”
I cut him off, “I can say with confidence that I would not like your friend Bill Michaels.”
“Of course you would.”
“Nope. I wouldn’t.”
“How do you know? I mean, you’ve never met him. Or maybe you have, you do work here. But then again you would like him if you did. He’s a really great guy. A real give-you-the-shirt-off-his-back type guy. I remember this one time . . .’
I cut him off again, “No, trust me, I wouldn't like him..”
“I think you would.”
“No, I’m pretty confident that I would hate him. Hate his guts in fact. And I can say that with 100% certainty without even meeting him.”
“Well that’s not nice, judging somebody you’ve never even met.”
“That’s just the kind of person I am. I tells it like it is.”
“Well you can’t really tell it like it is if you don’t actually know how it is ‘cause you’ve never met him.”
“No, I can, believe me. It’s a gift I have. From God.”
“Well I find it hard to believe God would give any gift that has to do with hating people. ‘specially people you’ve never even met. That seems more like a gift from the Devil."
“Exactly,” I say, “So, anyway, what exactly did you come up here to see this ‘buddy’ about? Got a meeting? You two on a project team together or something.”
“No, I was just sick of working so I decided to come up here and shoot the shit with him.”
“I see. Just came up to shoot the shit. Well we all need a break every now and then don’t we?”
“That’s for sure."
“Well, at least it wasn’t anything you had to rush to.”
“Unfortunately I was, actually I am, in a bit of a rush. You see I have a very important meeting I need to get to and a very short window of time to get to it so I kind of got a bit miffed when halfway through my ride to the 39th floor the elevator came to an abrupt stop so you could jump in and ride it up one floor.”
“I can see how that might stress you out,” he empathizes, “Sort of like when you run into a traffic jam on the way to work.”
“But you really should have left a bit earlier. Just saying.”
“Actually I couldn’t,” I tell him, “ I had back-to-back meetings and my last one was all the way over on West Monroe.”
“You should try blocking off the half hour before and after a meeting on your calendar. It’s a little trick I’ve learned. That way you don’t ever have to worry about getting to a meeting late, even if it’s in another building or your last one runs overtime. ”
“Why thank you Jimmy Neutron!” I say, attempting to conjure the spirit of Samuel L. Jackson. “What an incredibly brilliant and thoroughly innovative idea!”
“Well actually I think most people probably do that so I really can’t take credit. It’s just sorta something you learn over time from experience. ”
“I was being sarcastic you dumb sonovabitch.”
“Hey, no need for name calling.”
“No, sorry, or course not. Thank you for your tip. I’ll have to remember that from now on. Now here’s a tip for you, if you’re only going up or down one floor then take the goddamn stairs! Hell, if you’re going up or down ten floors take the stairs! You look like you could use the exercise.”
“Now just what’s that supposed to mean? Are you calling me fat?”
“No, I'm not calling you fat. I’m just saying that your belt is supposed to buckle over your waist not your pubis so you should probably either buy a bigger belt or start taking the stairs more often!”
“Hey now, you're exactly skinny yourself.”
“Well grant it I'm no Shelley Duvall but let's face it, if we were mistaken for Laurel & Hardy I’m the one they would more likely be calling Laurel."
“Exactly,” I reply.
“So what time is this meeting of yours?” he asks.
“Two thirty," I say.
He looks at his cheap digital watch and says “It’s two thirty nine. Wow, you’re pretty late.”
“No thanks to your fat lazy ass using the elevator to go one floor!”
“Well if you hadn’t gotten off here to harass and berate me you’d already be there by now.”
“I still would’ve been late. Because of you!”
“You would have been a couple of minutes late and you know that meetings always start a few minutes late. Not nine minutes late though. Actually now it’s ten minutes and at best it’ll probably take another three to four minutes to get there so that’s at least thirteen minutes. They usually start meetings a little bit late but definitely not thirteen minutes late. That’s a lot. You’re gonna be really late for this one. Just sayin’.”
“Go shoot the shit with your pal,” I say then turn to push the button for the elevator. "Then eat it and die you fat fuck!” I turn back to instruct him.
By the time I get to the conference room I’m sixteen minutes late. Arthur Hewitt, 1st Vice President and Director of Media Relations looks up at me as I attempt to slip in quietly. From his face I can tell I’m in for a rationing of shit when this is over. He’s a real dick about these sorts of things. He’s pretty much a dick in general. You would think someone in his position would be highly charismatic and outgoing. Not so. Hewitt is all business, no personality, and everything he says comes across as some sort of passive aggressive attack on your professionalism. Sometimes he ain’t so passive, like the first time I met with him and he called my boss afterwards to tell him I was in violation of the dress code. I was wearing white socks with a suit, as was my personal style back then. I was subsequently told to discontinue the practice if I wanted to remain employed here. So much for expressing individuality.
Anyway, there are no seats at the table so I take one of the chairs lined up against the door side of the wall. As I sit down I notice Jen Resnick sitting not too far away. Her chair is pushed back slightly from the table, her legs crossed and out from under it. She catches me scanning her wonderful calves and thighs and rolls her eyes before adjusting her posture and rolling herself towards the table, leaving only the back of her chair within my gaze. I suddenly find myself sympathizing with Marvin Martian and his plight, wanting to blow up the Earth on account of it obstructing his view of Venus and all.
When the meeting comes to an end and we begin filing out, Jen turns to me and says “You’re a pig, you know that?”
I want to respond with something witty and charming and just slightly fresh but I can think of no such thing so I just say “But I’ve got a good heart.” She half-smiles and looks like she’s about to say something when I hear Hewitt calling my name. My wounded balls begin to sting again.
“I expect punctuality,” he tells me, “I consider my time a precious commodity and I demand it be respected as such.”
“Sorry Sir, my last meeting ran over time and it was all the way over at the West Monroe building,” I say, reflecting on the irony that “Sir” is considered a term of respect yet I only seem to use it to address people I think are dickheads.
“A little trick SKANLYN,” he says, “Block off the half hour before and after a meeting. Then you’ll never be late for your next meeting.”
I decline to conjure Samuel L. Jackson's spirit or call him Jimmy Neutron and just tell him that “I will definitely do that from now on.”
“Be sure that you do,” he says.