Your Tuesdays weren’t always like this. But the boss drops off his kids at daycare those mornings giving you an extra 90 minutes to get to your desk. It started out innocently (these things always do). You forgot to press the floor button for your stop on the elevator. Your nose was probably buried in something you were reading. Most likely, a book. When you looked up only you and another woman remained as you signaled for her to exit first. You got off, too. Started wondering around floor 37. A full 9 stops past your floor. You thought to yourself you can no longer complain that nothing exciting ever happens to you. You wound your way around the labyrinthine hallways hurling enthusiastic “Good morning!”s and “Hello!”s to whomever you crossed. You felt like a completely new person. People smiled. Some returned verbal greetings. It’s like you threw positive, infectious pebbles into a new pond and watched the ripple effect. You ducked into the restroom to see how the other half really lives. Double-fucking-ply?!! The 37s know how to live it up. You found yourself in a portion of the building that’s under construction. “Just passing through,” you slid in between your wink and grin. The workmen gave you appreciative nods. Eventually, you took the southwest elevator back down. You rode down with a floral delivery man chatting all the way. Wished him well and returned back to your set of elevator shafts (northeast), then back up to your desk.
It’s now nearly four months since you started this routine. It’s another one of your Tuesdays. Your favorite day of the week. You come in extra early and you ride the elevators. It really is all about the journey. In the southwest shafts, you’re now known as Linda. You like to ask the well-dressed Franklin about his children who’re both in high school. Talk about a captive audience–temporally limited, but captive nonetheless. He inquires about your amateur acting career (the one that only exists in elevators on Tuesdays, unbeknownst to him). You never travel down these shafts, preferring instead to walk through floor 14 playing a game where you never try to greet the same person more than once ever until you get to the central elevators. If you time it right, which is just around 7:37am, you can ride back down with Lucinda, an older woman who works the nightshift for a call center. Been doing the same thing for more than 30 years. You admire that kind of dedication and you are fascinated by the intricate skin tributaries her crow’s feet fold into when, and if, you can get her to smile. She knows you as Pamela. In fact, everybody in this set of elevators calls you that. If you’ve hit a groove, you’ll sometimes just ride up and down the same shaft for half your improvised Tuesday morning routine. Sometimes you try and hit them all, but it’s a big building and even an early arrival with two hours to spare doesn’t give you enough time.
Today, you thought you’d begin with the northwest elevators. They seem to run just a little faster than the other sets. You like to dress in business pant suits for this elevator. Yes, you do sometimes change outfits between elevators, but never more than three times. It’s just too much stuff to carry. Mentally, you’re getting into your northwest role, Angelica-but-my-friends-call-me-Angel, but your hopes are dashed as you see the “Temporarily Closed” sign. No worries. It’s off to the trusty southwest shafts. You don’t even have to bother changing your outfit. You’ll just say you’ve got an interview today. But these elevators are also closed. Your spirits have been grounded as you head for the central set. There’s no way they can close all the elevators in a building this size. It’s open! The bounce returns to your step. The lobby is packed with people waiting. “‘Morning, Pamela.” You hear this directed your way, but don’t really see who said it. “Hey, Angel!” a friendly female blurts out not even three steps later. “Hey!” you return without looking up. From farther away, someone practically yells “Good to see you again, Grace.” Despite the crowd and the fact that you only used this name that one time by mistake, you know this is directed at you. You can’t be boxed in with these people. With this many yous.
You quicken your pace, keep your head down, and manage to get around the corner to take the stairs. All 28 floors on foot. The first few flights are quick. You’re practically running, looking back over your shoulder. You slow your pace about a third of the way up. You’ve never been so aware of gravity. You can feel individual beads of sweat start from under your bra strap and roll down your spine until they hit your waistline. Your legs ache. By the time you reach the door to your actual floor, your tears have ruined your eyeliner. You open the door. The faint hum of fluorescent lighting greets you and Tuesday looms like a set of endless cubicles.