Awkward elevator rides

I get really awkward in elevators.

I take the elevator down from and up to my apartment every day — I seem to always have an excuse why I can’t walk down the six flights of stairs. In the morning, I can’t walk down the stairs because I’m holding my breakfast smoothie; and in the evening, I can’t walk up the stairs because I’m wearing high heels and I had a stressful day — and I just DESERVE to take the elevator.

Six flights on an elevator is not quite long enough to have a real conversation, but it’s the perfect length that it’s weird not to have a conversation.

I don’t want to be that overly chatty person who starts up a conversation in the grocery line, waiting room, or elevator; but once someone starts talking to me, I can become Ms. Friendly. And it usually makes me smile.

Last night, on my way home from work, a guy in a Northwestern sweatshirt asked me how my day was — as if we were best friends. I had to think — do I know him? Is he the guy who parks next to me in the garage? Am I also wearing some kind of Northwestern regalia that made him want to talk to me? In six flights, how do I explain to a complete stranger that though I do like my job, it can be stressful, though I did have a very productive day, and I even managed to run a few errands at Walgreens, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Kinko’s? So I said that it was a good, stressful day, but now I’m hungry. He told me he tried to go for a walk along the lake but it was too cold. And then the “6” lit up. “Have a good night.”

Sometimes I wish I was friendlier in these awkward elevator rides. Most of the time, though, I check my phone, grateful even for the dozens of LivingSocial e-mails or for a Facebook friend posting a picture of his breakfast burrito.

But maybe it wouldn’t be so bad every now and then if I struck up a conversation with an elevator mate. I could tell a woman that I like her sweater; or, more accurately, that I like her dog’s sweater. Or comment about the weather. Or pick one of my favorite icebreaker questions (“what’s your favorite fruit/non-fruit combination?” “when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?”) and let it loose and hope for the best.

After all, we are neighbors. Whether they live in my building or on my block or in this country, it’s nice to remind ourselves that we’re all in this together.

Tonight, when I come home from work, maybe I’ll try to smile at a stranger in the elevator. And, maybe, if I’m brave enough, I may even learn something new about one of my neighbors.

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