I had to write this sometime, so here it goes:
Oddly enough, at about 1.50p today I was in an elevator in a San Mateo office building when I was on my way from B1 to the 5th floor when the doors opened at the 4th, and I walked out assuming it was my floor.
By the time I am audibly saying “this isn’t my floor”, I realize the gentleman next to me, about 5’5″, blond, coiffish hair, who has entered the elevator at the same moment I am doubling back, is nervously reacting to my comment.
“Oh it’s going up?” is all I register him asking, my attention fixated on the unnerving juxtaposition of his casual docker khaki’s and checkered red button down while his arms hover in a still, horizontal tension while clutching a vertical, rubberized, camoflauged, 10 guage shotgun. At least that’s what my peripheral vision caught as I went into my cold, survey mode.
10 Seconds had passed.
“It’s just to the 5th. I thought this was my floor. Apologies, but there’s plenty of space in this boat for two.”
It might sound stupid, but I don’t know how to interact with people on elevators. I don’t mean this situation… I mean after a decade and a half in hotels I don’t fucking know how to talk to people. I joke about sharing the boat regularly. It breaks the ice. It might be hollow and derivative, but it’s the way things go. I went into a robotic, rote mode… it’s lucky I didn’t recite the whole “life is like an elevator, it’s up and it’s down” bit. We had the oldest elevator West of the Mississippi in Boulder, and the oldest operator to boot. I have heard it all… certain things creep down into the cracks of your skin and synapses and creep out of you and seep out at the right time.
I don’t know if I was annoying or breezy, but my mind went into some silly mode, the one that I fancy… the spy, the calculator. Addressing the situation, taking stock, playing chess with my future moment to moment. I even refrained from my errant, flippant commentary… a could hardly comprehend a casually dressed mid 40’s gent gripping a shotgun in a downtown San Mateo office building, about as much as I could imagine having said, “The thing about the availability of guns is that we don’t need to keep them from the responsible people like you,” or some other ill fated drool of aggressively feigned and haphazardly placed small talk.
The doors are sliding open at this point. 5th floor.
It has been 20 total seconds.
This time slips away. I have been in complete shock the entire time. I am no secret agent, and my capacity to comprehend the ebbing speed of this thing dilates the situation from my mind into a cocoon of a sort of shock and resolution. I want it over, and I am not in control. If his iron cross had changed, or wild eyes crawled down my spine… those seconds in the elevator may have been different. Springing into action, understanding severity of acting and not acting. I envisioned suicide – bits of matter populating my crisp clothing. I assumed madness.
His tension was fierce. A small man with a significant charm. Pondering his position, he steps upward instead of being aware of his trajectory.
His mind wanders.
It has been 25 seconds and I am vacuously, plainly walking away…. a vacant amble to our office, my back as target for any number of situations. I write the weapon off as a stack of papers, or the Arrowhead delivery, possibly the anxious exiting of a resume laden with future. I pay it no mind…. my mind is a blank, and my shock has me focused on where the meeting will take place, and whether I am in bad form… as I felt while I stepped onto the elevator… for being too close to the buzzer.
I can hear a ding as the preceding half minute staggers wayward, empties from my mind as I move forward in my day.
I passed on the story, the experience a first time, and it was contemplated quite distantly. When I found my dear friend to share the moments of our days, and was able to casually wander through the preceding hours…. this howled past me like our summer’s wind laden with bone chill. I was in shock…. taken by a token flight pre-fight, which I would have prepared to do to the death, my machismo rumbles.
It just can’t be right, and even now I am on the phone with the curious truth seekers and protectors of our realm. I don’t know what to say without sounding carried away, but shotguns in office buildings typically don’t have a happy ending.
To my shipmate, and elevator partner… he who might protect us or challenge others unwarrantly… please reconsider being that stoic, immutable energy that confronts us once each lifetime. Please understand there is a certain honus in caring a gun in public, in an office building, in San Mateo. I am sure there is an explanation, but to hear the reasoning first hand doesn’t seem out of line. I wouldn’t mind if you offered it forth.
Until then, I am trying to sort out how I felt the presence of an out of focus, and somewhat distant and disengaged human holding a shotgun in an office building elevator. I am not quite sure that is de rigeur for that area.
The man seemed to exhale, I hoped it was a chuckle, it certainly became a groan… I think, I think it was a groan…. and he suffered me. I cannot believe I calmly walked out with my back to him. Those doors slid closed…
It was 35 seconds?