©2013 Nim Gholkar All Rights Reserved
The world is divided into two kinds of people. Those who talk to complete strangers when they are going up or down in an elevator. And those who…well…don’t. For a long time now, I have applied for membership to the second category, but for whatever strange, inexplicable reasons, I continue to belong to that section of humanity that simply ‘must’ strike up a conversation.
People in general (myself included, on those rare occasions when I really don’t wish to make small talk) are content to stare without blinking at the ground while the elevator pings the arrival of the first floor, then the second, the third and so on……We focus on some fixed spot on the ground, then glance up the ceiling, then cast a quick turn-around glimpse at ourselves in the mirror, then do a final check of our I-phones just in case there has been a facebook status update in the 30 seconds we have been travelling in the lift.
Now, while these have been peaceful journeys indeed with a hint of unspoken camaraderie between the co-travellers, I have had a lot more fun when I have struck up conversations. Mind you, not everyone who travels with you in an elevator is interested in a ‘Hey there, how’re you doing?’ kind of verbal exchange. It is easy to spot the ones who just do not wish to talk. But thanks to those others who are game to have a chat, I have had some hilarious ‘lift’ conversations. Sometimes the exchanges are pretty standard and predictable. One asks the other a quick string of friendly but impersonal questions about the weather…..or, it’s a ‘Thank God It’s Friday’ or ‘Aren’t you glad it’s the weekend’ kind of interaction. On other, more memorable, occasions however, the conversations have been truly enjoyable. From asking me for the recipe for samosas to my reasons for migrating to a foreign land, from ‘oh, you work in Sales, how exciting’ to ‘oh, you work in Sales. Poor you!’kind of exchanges….I have heard it all! I could write a book some day inspired simply by these episodes in elevators. Once I had a truly funny conversation with a silver haired old lady as we were travelling to something ridiculous like the 35th floor of a hotel. The lift would keep stoping to churn out guests, and sweep in new ones as it travelled towards its final destination. We got talking about reading as a hobby, and after a quick update on which books I enjoyed, I asked her: ‘So, do you like reading?’. She gave me a dimpled smile and said: “Yes, my dear. I love reading. Usually things like reading too much into what people say, reading between the lines, etc’. It took me a few seconds to understand her tongue-in-cheek sense of humour, but when I did, we both burst out laughing. Two complete strangers. United by humour.
A more recent memory is from last week, as I was travelling an elevator journey of a mere four levels. As I walked into the lift, I smiled at the smartly dressed young woman who was clutching a bulging folder with official looking documents. She smiled back. Having had a long and tiring day at work, I was content to simply stand in a corner and doze till I arrived at my destination. But no such luck. The young woman belonged to the first category of human beings. Those who love to talk. She grinned and said: “Did you have a good long weekend?” (We had recently had a four day long weekend in Sydney). ‘Oh yes, but no weekend is ever long enough. I reckon we need more public holidays in Australia’, I replied. Believe me, that was all I said. This was followed by one of the longest conversations I have ever had even with one of my usual friends, let alone a complete stranger.
She started by saying that in Holland (where she originally comes from) they have half the number of public holidays we do here in Oz.This was followed by a quick summary of why and when she had moved from Holland to Australia. By now, the elevator door had opened, and we started walking towards the car park, where we had parked our respective cars. In the three minutes it took us to reach our cars, I had learned about her university days, her struggle to find a good place to rent in Sydney and her complete fascination for India (where I come from) and how she would love to visit the Taj Mahal some day. Phew! As she got into her car, she waved cheerfully at me and yelled: ‘Great talking to you, mate. Have a nice day’ and she disappeared. Talk about ships passing in the night.
As conversations go, that sure was an enlightening one. I now have an in-depth knowledge of public holidays in Holland !!!
It was a brief and short-lived friendship. But it is one I doubt I will forget.