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Going Down?

Lunk in an Elevator

It's Wednesday morning and I arrive for the third day of my current temp job. Five or six people get on the elevator with me, we all punch our respective floor buttons, and begin to rise. The bell rings and the doors open, and I step out. 

Sometimes when elevator-riding, I just get out when the door opens, regardless of what floor I pressed.  In this case I get out on the fourth floor, one level below my intended destination.  Were there not a crowd of people already in the elevator, no doubt looking at the back of my head as I stand there, and also an entire office of strangers who have looked up from their desks and are staring at me, I would simply jump back into the elevator before the doors shut, and ride up to five. But I cannot do this, of course: I would look like a fool. So I just stand there while the elevator closes behind me and takes itself, and the uncaring bastards inside, to the next floor.

I have to do something. I confidently turn right and begin walking with the air of a man who has important business here on the fourth floor, and lo and behold, I am saved! A drinking fountain! Right in front of me! Actually, I have walked halfway past it and am forced to execute a sharp yet completely believable and casual looking ninety-degree right hand turn, and then I bend over and take a drink from the ice-cold waters of the fountain. Not only does this give me a reason for being on the fourth floor (for everyone knows the water on the fourth floor is the tastiest in the building), but as I drink I have also cleverly given myself time to plan my next move.

My lips are numb and my stomach swollen with water when I finally leap back into action. I can't wait any longer; my first plan (an earthquake swallows the building and therefore relieves me of my embarrassing predicament) has failed to come to fruition. I can't drink any longer either, due to the laws of nature. I stand upright, wincing at the stiffness of my back, and then spot my salvation. The stairs! Of course! I lurch, stomach gurgling and body temperature a full ten degrees lower, into the stairwell. I've done it! I made a mistake on the elevator yet covered it with the cool nonchalance that has become my trademark. I'm certain nobody thought anything unusual about a guy getting off the elevator, drinking from the water fountain for thirty-eight minutes, then stumbling into the stairwell.

 Bloated yet happy, I climb to the fifth floor and my plan dissolves as I spy a combination-code panel on the fifth floor door. Ruin.  I was never given the combo.  Defeated, I uncomfortably descend the stairwell back to ground level. The fourth floor door has a code panel too, but even if it didn't, I just can't picture going back in and waiting for the elevator. People might think I was weird.

Reaching the first floor, I leave the stairs and ride up in the elevator again. It opens on four and I press myself flat against the side of the compartment to allow someone to get off and for no other reason than that. 

Moments later on five, I go straight to the office restroom. There's an awful stink in it. I mean, abysmal. Breathing through my mouth, I get rid of a great deal of fourth floor fountain water, wash my hands, and perform some other non stink-producing activities. I do these things as quickly as I can, not just because I hate smelling stinking smells (although I do), but because I know exactly what is going to happen next. And since I am me, and since this is my life, just as I am leaving, it happens: a man I recognize as the big boss of the office walks in to the restroom. 

His nose immediately wrinkles and his face blanches as he gets a whiff of the smell, and then he looks accusingly at me. I want to explain the situation or defend myself, but what can I say? 

"I didn't make that stink" or "Boy, it sure is stinky in here due to someone other than myself who was in here previous to my own presence in the lavatory" both reek of guilt, pardon the pun. So I just dart out of the restroom, knowing that the big boss, having a million other important responsibilities, will immediately return to his office and conduct a conference call with all of the office managers, to discuss the foulness of my stank. Into the office files goes my name, followed by the word stinkyboy, which is faxed to all the major business in the hemisphere.

The end of the week. I'm finishing up a game of FreeCell when my boss approaches. "I wanted to talk to you," she says, "about the awful stink you made in the restroom." Actually, she asks me about my ambitions and career goals, and suggests I come with her to the Human Resources Department. "I can show you around, and introduce you to people," she offers. "Maybe you can find some job prospects."

"Sure," I say. "Thanks."

"Let's go," she says. "Human Resources is on the fourth floor."

"Oh, you know what?" I say. "I've already been there."