Friday, April 13, 2007

The Cake Has to Go in the Elevator

I have this thing about elevators. To me, they are hotbeds of germ activity. I do not think I am alone in this, but I can speak only of my personal views.

Anyone who knows me or has regularly read my blog knows that I avoid places where I am likely to come in direct contact with other people’s germiness. Elevators, alas, are difficult to avoid. But not only are they germy, sometimes they smell.

I work in a public building, which is unfortunate not just because of the crazy people one inevitably encounters (just yesterday a coworker stopped me on my way back from getting coffee to tell me to go around to the side entrance because “there’s a guy with a black eye out front, talking to people,” and from her tone I interpreted her statement (correctly) to mean “crazy guy out front talking crazy to everyone and he will stop you and speak crazy directly to you”). And this building is not only a public building, it’s a courthouse, so you have people from every conceivable background and walk of life, from the seemingly well-to-do, well-educated people who inexplicably do not wash their hands after using the bathroom to the just-over-from-the-jail-for-trial criminal defendants. And they all get on the elevators.

Needless to say, the first thing I do when I get to work in the mornings is wash my hands. I try to avoid touching any of the elevator buttons but sometimes you can’t get around it. I also try not to touch anyone or anything else in the elevators. Again, unfortunately, sometimes you can’t get around it.

The worst trips are the ones where the elevator is completely full and you stop on just about every floor. I hate those crowded trips because the more people there are, the higher the odds that one of them is contagious, and with a bigger crowd, there’s less room to stand apart from the other passengers. Also, if we stop on every floor, it makes it difficult for me to hold my breath the whole ride. And sometimes there’ll be someone on the elevator who is sneezing or coughing or making some gross phlegm-related noise. That always causes me to try to shrink to the smallest possible size to maximize the space between me and the offender. Of course, if that worked, I could eat all the candy I wanted and I wouldn't have to keep buying new clothes.

I would just take the stairs, but climbing up nine floors in heels doesn’t appeal to me or my problem-plagued feet, and plus the stairs are the mini-flights, you know, maybe only 5 steps to a section, then a landing, then more stairs, and they curve, so it’s basically taking a circular staircase up nine floors. Going even one floor makes me a little sick. Then there’s the fact that the floor with the employee entrance doesn’t have access to the stairs, so to take the stairs I’d have to go in the main entrance, which would mean (a) standing in line and (b) risking having my pepper spray taken away from me by the security guards.

Usually my elevator-phobia doesn’t cause me any difficulties, but sometimes it does. The other day my boss gave me a cake for my birthday. I didn’t want to say anything to her, but I thought to myself, how am I supposed to eat that? It has the go in the elevator! The cake has to go in the elevator! Actually, two elevators, one to leave this building and one in the parking garage. And the cake was just in one of those cake boxes, which are not hermetically sealed. When I got home, I really had to talk myself out of throwing the whole thing away. I knew she’d ask me about it, and I couldn’t lie to her, so I’d have to try it. And it was good cake, once I got past the gag reflex that kicked in after the first bite. I am very suggestive when it comes to being grossed out by food (I had a really hard time eating the cherry vanilla yogurt that I love after my cruel, sadistic brain came up with the thought that how would I know if those are cherry pieces and not chopped-up bugs?).

I’m trying to think of some way to get past my feelings about elevators, but I just don’t see that happening. So obviously I'm going to have to buy some Glad Press'n Seal to keep at my desk.

This does not make me paranoid.


RR said...

I'm glad I read this post after eating some of that cake.

Lia said...

You do know about purse-sized purell containers, don't you?

I also work in a public building, with courts sharing my elevator bank. And I have a jumbo sized Purell at my desk.

HM said...

Totally understand.

a.) my clinic placement at Legal-Aid is on the 9th Floor of the Manhattan Family Court (and boy do those elevators get crowded and I have to come in the public interest)

b.) in order to get there, I have to take the SUBWAY which makes all elevators, even in public courtrooms, seem quite clean in comparison. All food or drink that goes in must be completely covered. I've increased my collection of coffee thermoses that have those nifty snapping lids to keep it from being contaminated by the subway air.

JLR said...

rr: :)
lia: yes, I carry purell around with me, but that, unfortunately, doesn't help with the breathing in the germs or the germs getting on my food. I should probably invest in a jumbo size purell for me desk, too.

hm: yes, i have to say that the one time you talked me into getting on the subway is probably the only time I will ever get on there, because I just can't hold my breath for that long. I am constantly on the lookout for a travel mug that looks super well-sealed for you to carry around.

brucef said...


My name is Bruce Felton. I’m a freelance writer and I’m working on a story for the New York Times (Sunday business section) on how people with elevator anxiety manage in the workplace. I saw your blog – and your mention of your own concerns about elevators – and would very much like to set up a brief (10-20-minute) phone interview with you at your convenience.

If you’re agreeable – or if you have any questions – would you mind getting back to me to let me know when you might be available? I’m reachable by phone at 212 362 5765 and e-mail at My deadline for filing the story is July 9, so I’d hope to do this as soon as possible.

Many thanks and best regards,

Bruce Felton