Saturday, May 3, 2014

A fee to ride with me

Whenever I have to work in the Bernalillo County Clerk's Office I have to ride the elevator. Ok, I don't have to, or so the signs posted by the elevators claim. The signs advise I do my body a favor and take the stairs. Uh huh. I'm fat. I smoke. And it's seven floors up. This is after I've already climbed one flight just to get to the basement elevators. 

I am considering a gradual approach. I'm thinking I could climb to where I'm about to pass out and then swap over to the elevator. I'll get back to you on this.

Elevators have become my favorite social experiment.

Here's how it works: typically when I get on the elevator in the basement I'm by myself. Within two floors another rider or riders join me. Now for the fun part.

I wait for the doors to close and inform my fellow passenger(s) there is a fee for riding with me. Most people respond with a nervous glance and shift their stance. The fee is simple, I tell them; no money required. 

The fee is a joke. It must be clean. It must be funny.

1% of men say they don't know any jokes yet their face says otherwise.
99% of men blush, duck their heads and try to suppress a laugh. 
At this point the trick is to make eye contact. All men shift uncomfortably. Their smiles get wider and they begin chuckling aloud. The ones who hiccup laughter are also shaking their heads as they mentally recall and discount known jokes.

70% of women go into panic mode. A joke? She wants a joke - ahh! Help!
The remaining 30% is a mixed bag of: I can't tell jokes; I just heard a great one but can't remember how it goes; or they show a goofy picture on their phone. If I get a goofy picture, I also get the story behind it. More often than not the story is better than the picture so this does count as a joke.

Now I've been requesting a fee at every opportunity for more than a year. Rarely my fellow passengers and I share the same destination. But we all depart the elevator with a smile.

The other day I shared the elevator with three men. Did I get a joke? No. Two of the men got off on a lower floor. The other man announced to me "you're always so chipper. I've ridden with you before so I knew about the fee." Yeah but he didn't tell a joke. 

He went on to say he thinks he has me figured out. He believes I am a naturally happy person on a mission to share happiness.

Ok. Far be it for me to disillusion him. That's not why I charge people to ride the elevator with me. The fee began as a coping mechanism and has evolved into a very amusing social experiment. No one has ever gotten angry. No one has ever copped an attitude. And everyone leaves happy.

So why the fee? Because I had an intense fear of elevators. My father spent decades trying to convince me of the soundness of the science, engineering. What goes up must come down, except in elevators where you can be stuck somewhere between. I don't like confined spaces to begin with so the fear of being trapped between floors is very real to me. All alone in a little box and no one knows I'm there. This is the stuff of nightmares.

Hence a coping mechanism that not only shifted my focus onto another person but made that person aware of me. Simply it's how not to be alone in a crowd. Charging a fee to share an elevator maybe a kooky way of getting attention but it's highly effective. And I'm getting over my fear of elevators.

Oh yeah, and I'm sharing happiness.