Opinion

Elevator encounters

You can learn a great deal by either stepping on or off an elevator. I recall several instances throughout my life — all involving an elevator — that have had somewhat of an impact on how I comprehend the world around me. 

I was attending a work conference at the Samoset in Rockport in early spring approximately 20 years ago. It seemed as though each time I used the elevator, I encountered the same lovely lady either already in the elevator or about to depart. She was fashionably dressed, always in capris and a lace top, dazzling and colorful sandals and modest gold jewelry. Her hair was that perfect salt-and-pepper hue and her eyes were deep blue and constantly absorbing her surroundings. She carried a straw handbag, adorned with a rose gold buckle and the scent of her perfume was lavender; a bit bashful yet effective. 

The first few encounters we shared consisted of friendly smiles and comments about the weather. I found myself searching for her throughout my day of workshops, but I could never find her. On my fourth and final day of the seminar, I encountered her one last time, noting that she did not wear a name tag. 

“Are you here for the conference?” I asked. 

She shook her head. “Nope! Those days are over. Now I come here as a guest and I get to enjoy every aspect of this beautiful place. I retired quite a few years ago. I remember those long hours of workshops and sitting there in that great ballroom, longing to go outside and enjoy the gorgeous day just beyond the walls of the building. I vowed I would return someday with no time restrictions and complete freedom to walk down to the breakwater light any time of the day. And now, here I am. With my husband, of course. He is playing golf.” 

As a retiree myself, I find myself missing the work I did for so many years, yet I love the freedom that comes with no deadlines, decisions or competition.  

While in Freeport last summer, my sister, Lisa, and I were hurrying to catch the elevator that would take us down from the shopping area and into the parking garage. An older couple was already on board, their masks in place, and just about to press the down button when I took one step into the elevator, only to be met with the lady’s raised hand, her palm held toward me. 

“Can’t you read? The sign clearly says that only two people are allowed on at a time.” 

Of course, I backed out of the elevator, thinking of a dozen or so responses to her remark. I could have said, “Yes, as a matter of fact, I can read. I have been reading ever since I arrived on this planet. How dare you be so rude.” Of course, I did not say anything of the sort. I glanced to my right, and there was the sign, clearly stating that only two patrons were allowed to board. The doors of the elevator closed quickly and the couple vanished but not before the woman within gave me one final look of disgust, her back against the farthest wall, her hand now pressing her mask even more tightly against her face. 

The whole incident took place in just about 25 seconds, yet when I reminisce about that trip with my sister, I immediately think of that very angry woman and her behavior. Every once in a while, a sharp word or an angry glance can have a strong impact on the recipient. As the saying goes, a pebble to one person may be a boulder to another. I attempt to be aware of this as I navigate through this world. 

Now, for my favorite elevator encounter. The morning after attending an Elton John concert, Lisa and I stepped onto an elevator and were immediately joined by a jovial man and woman. Lisa and I were wearing our new Elton John T-shirts and I was carrying an Elton John tote bag. 

The woman said, “Oh, did you both go to the Elton John concert last night?” Lisa and I shook our heads enthusiastically and pointed to our T-shirts. 

The man laughed and said, “Wasn’t that glorious? He is phenomenal. We have seen him several times. He sounds even better now than he did when he was younger. We loved every moment.” We agreed with him and said our farewells when the elevator doors opened. 

I looked at Lisa as soon as they were out of earshot and said, “Wow! Didn’t they seem just a bit old to be so enthusiastic over Elton John? They were as sweet as can be, but I am surprised that they are fans.” 

Lisa smiled at me then. “Belinda, how old do you think they were?” “Well,” I said, “probably in their sixties.” 

Lisa laughed. “How old is Elton John?” she asked. 

“I think he is seventy-two.”

“And, how old are you? Hmmm?” 

I stood there for a moment. Reality wrapped its arms around me as I realized that the friendly couple was more than likely my age or younger. 

At least three powerful lessons were revealed to me from the opening and closing of elevator doors, my friends. Take time for you. Be kind. Pay no attention to age. Life is very much like an elevator. Up and down. A few delays here and there. The opening and closing of opportunity. And, every once in a while, a temporary malfunction. Eventually, however, we reach our destination. 

Despite the turmoil we are presently dealing with, there is still love and kindness all around. Stay safe, my friends. 

Belinda Hersey lives in Caribou with her husband, Kent, and their two dogs, Barney and Morgan.  You may email her at belindaouellette9@gmail.com.

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