How to Handle the Annoying Dude in the Elevator
As you may have experienced, the elevator can be one of the more awkward locales in an office building. I work on the top (40th) floor, which means a lot of people getting on and off before I reach my stop, and hence, a very long elevator ride. Since I get to work at the same time every day, I often end up in the exact same elevator as a man who works on my floor and makes the experience extremely uncomfortable.
This is what happens: He, I, and several other people get into the elevator. We acknowledge each other, and the elevator begins stopping at the lower floors and lets people off. As soon as everyone else gets off, he immediately walks over to me and stands as close as he possibly can, and then begins making conversation. I have no idea why he can’t just stay on the other side of the elevator when clearly, there is plenty of room. He stands so close that I can feel his body heat and smell what he had for breakfast. I’ve tried to come to work a few minutes earlier or later to avoid him, but it somehow works out that I’m in his elevator several times a week. It’s really starting to make me uncomfortable and gross me out.
What should I do?
Dear Needs a Lift,
The sad truth is that few experiences are not awkward in an elevator. The mix of proximity, serendipity and transience turns even the most ordinary interactions into harrowing encounters. (*Bing!* Time to wrap up that forced idle chit-chat! *Bing!* Someone is about to discover you farted! *Bing!* Nope, still not your 14th-floor crush! *Bing!* Are we “say hello” colleagues now?)
Most people emerge from elevators wishing something different had just happened. Perhaps they wish that they themselves were different , riding up and down the building of another, better life, where the single-serving interactions are more nourishing and the exotic strangers more invitingly witty. More than a few people alight from an elevator ride craving a more sensible life, more predictable in good ways and less so in the ways that make a workday feel long. It is sad. And also true.
Given the inevitability of elevator despair, it is wise to consider the bright side of your close-talker problem. In these times of cost-cutting building managers, for example, a bit of body heat is no bad thing, particularly as the weather makes its annual exhilarating move from “moist” to “crisp”. As for the whiff of this chap’s breakfast, I need only point out that a slowing metabolism often leads to a rise in the pleasures of vicarious eating. Instead of thinking “Why am I smelling this man’s donut?”, perhaps it makes more sense to think “I am now eating a donut with my nose”.
But even our more tedious workplace admirers offer something important: the opportunity to be both flattered and disdainful. Isn’t it nice to feel beguiling? And isn’t it a bit fun to wonder how someone can be so blinded by his regard for you as to miss all of your signals of contempt? “Well I must be very fetching indeed!”, you might then conclude, as your latest passive-aggressive salvo of scorn goes unheeded. Think to yourself: is this really so bad?
Oh but you are not convinced! Okay, you have three options:
1. Discover this man’s Achilles heal. Then get him fired for it.
2. Call him “Bill”. It is now too late in the game to correct you, rendering the exchange as awkward for him as it is unpleasant for you. But if he doesn’t do the sensible thing and avoid you–indeed, if he bravely insists that his name is not in fact “Bill”, respond by saying “Oh, you’re always such a funny one Bill!” Repeat. (Replace “Bill” with “Steve” if his name is in fact Bill or even Will and also William.)
3. Date him for six months. Then break his heart. He will then avoid you.
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