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Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Friendly Elevator

Living in an apartment building there are many people you come across everyday. People who may be dear friends, people who are your immediate neighbours, people you meet on and off and know just as a face and people who you don't know at all.
I happen to live on the 23rd floor and everytime I get into the elevator there is bound to be someone or the other who will get in before I reach the ground level. Over the last couple of years I have realised this is one of the best ways to get to know those who live in your building.
Each morning when I take the lift to drop my daughter to her school bus I meet people who are leaving for office. On most days the faces are same. Its almost a routine, so much so that I know exactly which floors the elevator will stop before we reach ground zero. These people generally hold the lift for some time while the wife/maid/mother hands them their tiffin and wishes them a good day. They are usually loaded with a laptop bag/files/folders/of course the tiffin that was just handed and are all set to face a new day, albeit with some boredom. I wish there was more enthusiasm there. A simple smile and a nod suffices in these cases.
Then there are those I meet while going back up after dropping my daughter for school. This time round the traffic is of a different kind. Not the office-goers, these are others who come to drop their children for school, mostly mothers/grandparents, people returning from morning walk/yoga classes/temple/gym, maids coming in for work. They will usually talk about the latest happenings in other families in the building, complaining about this or that, asking me to visit them sometime (to which I politely nod my head and invite them back-of course none of us ever visits each others' home). There is not much to talk here either, but lots to hear ;)
The next session when I go down is when i have to leave for work/meeting. This time round its mostly the college students who enter the lift, their ears shut out to the outside world in the music of an i-pod or the regular phone, their jaws working in a constant rythm with the chewing gum, their eyes on their sneakers. We share a 'hi',talk about which song is playing, nod, smile and thats it.
On days when I return late I usually end up being in the lift alone, or maybe someone else too is returning from work and we end up taking the lift together. Conversations in this scenario will mostly begin with complaints about the trafiic, about how the roads are packed, about a busy day, about the kind of work that we do, about general chit-chat related to work and traffic. Then again a bye and a good-night as each one gets off at their respective floors.
On days when I am at home I usually take my daughter down to the park. Such evenings are fun for both her and me as we almost always meet our friends in the elevator who are going to the park as well. So its my friends and their children who are my daughter's friends and there is always a lot of noise and commotion and singing and talking and chatting and trying to control the kids to which we all fail miserably when they gang up and decide to be naughty together...on such days when we return back home together its a lot of fun.....
Most of these people, apart from our friends, we hardly visit at home or meet on other days or on personal ocassions. We do not invite each other to our parties, we do not even converse beyond the elevator conversations. But on days when someone is missing from that regular schedule, we all wait to see if the person is coming or not, asking them the next day if they are fine, if they had gone on a trip. We hardly know them, yet know where they live, who is in the family, where they work and what is the nature of their work.
Neighbours they are, and if it wasnt for the elevator, where else would we have met?