While waiting outside of the elevators, a crowd gathered. I clutched the strap of my purse with one hand, slung over one shoulder, and held my lunch bag with the other hand. I tapped my foot and looked at my watch. The work day had yet to begin and already I was impatient and irritated when the doors finally opened. We surged forward, each claiming space inside of the silver walled box with grungy floors and orange glowing buttons that promised of predetermined destinations.
A man with a briefcase leaned against the wall across from me, a woman held a coffee in one hand and another woman peered inside of an oversized purse as the doors closed. A couple with dirty shoes stood shoulder to shoulder and stared straight ahead as the doors closed. Just before the doors slid together, a hand appeared in the empty space and triggered them to reopen.
“Damn it,” I whispered under my breath, like any normal jerk in a hurry who was running late because of his or her own poor time management.
The man with a briefcase groaned, apparently not one to hide his emotions, as a blue barrel of trash rolled into the elevator followed by a man wearing a wireless ear piece into which he spoke.
“Yeah, I’m getting on the elevator, hang on. I might lose you.”
The trashman smelled like smoke and grease from McDonald’s drive through. He rested a hand on the edge of the trash barrel, lined with a plastic bag, “No, still here,” he laughed. “So that sonuvagun just showed up at mama’s place…” he continued.
The elevator was already filled with enough people to equally distribute the available floor room. There was no fear of bumping into another occupant or violating another’s personal space until he arrived. Yet, we still moved out of the way to make room for the trash barrel as it continued to move forward, partly out of decency and partly out of necessity to avoid conflict, and the barrel keeper didn’t seem to mind if we were crushed or displaced in the process.
As I squeezed between the man with dirty shoes and the woman with coffee, the contents splashed over the edge of the cup as the elevator lifted to the next floor, I felt a sense of nostalgia for the time when trash travelled via the service elevator, when people cared about the wellbeing of others, and when it wasn’t so damned hard to get from the first to the fifth floor.