Just when you think YOU’RE tired…

I have been feeling a bit grumpy about getting up at 5 am to beat the traffic, get to work/school, park in the garage, walk to my office to unload my stuff, pick up a laptop at our IT office, and then head off to teach by 8 am. Okay, more than a “bit” grumpy. Really grumpy. I feel like I’m barely treading water, and I don’t like that feeling. So I grump.

This morning, as I was getting in the elevator at 7:20 to head up to my office on the 13th floor, I saw one of the custodial workers headed my direction, so I risked life and limb and held the door open for her.

“Thank you, ma’am,” she said, settling in to her corner of the elevator and looking at me.

“No problem.” I reached in my bag to fiddle with my cell phone.

Then, after a pause, she asked, “How are you doing today?”

I ride in the elevator in this building a lot, and I like to watch people, the way they stand as far away from everyone else as possible, even to the point of subconsciously moving away as the elevator empties out at each floor on the way up–you sure don’t want to get caught too close to someone at the last minute. The other thing I pay attention to is the silence, the lack of eye contact, the pulling out the cell phone in order to have something to fiddle with. Needless to say, I don’t get asked how I’m doing very often in the elevator, and when I do, it is rarely this genuine.

I looked at her in her knee-length khakis and blue polo shirt, and I tried to decide whether to be honest and risk complaining about being tired and grumpy or just reply, “Oh, I’m fine, how are you?” like the average person does, not expecting an answer. Or maybe, “Fine, thank you. Isn’t it great weather today?” (It is, actually, having dipped into the low fifties last night.)

I told her I was tired.

“Yeeeaaah”–she had that way of drawing out her vowels–“I know that feeling. Three-thirty sure comes early every day.”

Three-thirty.

Every.

Day.

I got off the elevator feeling a bit spoiled with my life, my “oh my goodness I am so busy I can hardly think” attitude. I mean, really, commuting to work only three days a week? I get paid to write, edit, go to school, do homework, teach people to write–these are pretty cool things. I am fortunate, and not just because I don’t have to get up at 3:30 in the morning.

Sometimes it is good to look someone else in the eye, especially someone with completely different life circumstances, and realize that your life is not the center of the universe.

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4 comments on “Just when you think YOU’RE tired…

  1. Gail says:

    SO TRUE!! What a great reminder. I really appreciate you taking the time to write about this.

  2. Stephen says:

    Many people on the project here avoid eye contact too… it’s kinda funny. Sometimes I just want to step in front of them to force them to make some sort of social cont act.

  3. Bonnie says:

    Thanks for being honest! Sometimes I avoid eye contact too, I’ll try to be more sensitive to others.

  4. elizabeth says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, guy and gals. We definitely all get in the habit of sticking to our own little world because it is easier (even, like you said Stephen, when it’s people we see every day and work with), but I definitely don’t think it’s how we’re supposed to be. Then again, I’m the one who spends all her free minutes thinking about community!

    What I like best about this story is that the simple act of speaking with someone, even a stranger, changed my perspective and my attitude. If I had not engaged her in conversation–if I’d pulled out my phone and begun texting, heck, if I hadn’t held the elevator door open for her in the first place–it wouldn’t have been a story at all. And, what’s more, I wouldn’t have even know that I missed anything.

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