Waiting for the Elevator

Jane and I were headed to a metro station that we had not been to before. As we waited across the street, I studied the area. There did not appear to be the usual large multi-escalator entrance. Instead there was a small elevator door tucked away in a bit of an obscured corner. I watched as small crowds waited for the elevator. Around the corner of the elevator, facing the street, was a young heavily tattooed man sweating and lounging on the ground. He was not wearing a shirt and was stretched out on his side with his head propped up on his hand. Above him was a cardboard sign like street beggars might have. Hand lettered on the sign were these words: “A good lay for too little pay.”

Surely that doesn’t mean what it sounds to me like it means. I wondered about the man but he didn’t appear to be bothering the people waiting for the elevator. By the time we crossed the street, however, everyone else had made it down to the station. I pushed the button to request the elevator and waited. A few feet away, there was a painted panda statue. I told Jane to stay put and walked over to take its picture.


As I walked back, the man looked up at me. “How many pictures of that did you take?” he asked.

“Three,” I replied. “It’s a big enough memory card that I’m not too worried about it.”

He looked at my camera bag and I began to get a bit nervous. I returned to Jane and pushed the button again. Surely there’s too many people about for him to try anything… then again, this corner is a little bit hidden. About then, I saw him stand up. I glanced at Jane and wondered what I should do. He leaned against the corner of the elevator and looked me over.

“Excuse me,” he said, “I find myself attracted to you. Are you attracted to me?”

My mind descended into a cold calm as I considered my options. Ignoring him did not seem like an option. A gentle demur did not seem likely to end the discussion. A polite affirmative would undoubtedly bring on further advances. I felt that a negative response, no matter how politely put, might anger him.

“I’m married,” I said in a firm voice, looking him in the eye, “I don’t make it a habit to discuss who I am or am not attracted to.”

Silence hung between us as he parsed what I said. He finally asked, “Did you just tell me to f**k off?”

The possibility of danger was still present in my mind but I did not feel particularly afraid. “I suppose so,” I answered, “but in a nicer way.”

With that, he returned to his lounging location. I pushed the elevator button a couple more times. Jane turned to me with her eyes as wide as saucers. I began to consider whether we should leave the area. But the nearest metro station was a mile away, uphill. Soon an older gentleman approached. Finally, we had company.

“Does this go to the museum?” he asked.

“This is an elevator to the metro station. Where are you trying to go?”

“Oh. I was told the zoo was this way.”

“Ahh,” I said, “You want to go on up the road. It’s that way.” And with that, our sane, likely safe companion thanked me and headed in the direction I pointed, leaving me alone with my twelve-year-old daughter and a mildly threatening man.

Before I could decide how much attention to pay to my concerns, a large, strong-looking man arrived. What I wanted to say was, “Hello! You look big and strong. Will you be my protector? That guy over there is making me nervous.” Instead, I struck up the conversation with, “I’m starting to doubt the elevator is ever going to come.”

With that, we began to discuss the elevator and the weather and we enjoyed each other’s company until the elevator took us down to the metro and we parted ways. Jane and I sat down on a bench, looked at each other, and laughed.

5 thoughts on “Waiting for the Elevator

  1. This is a great story; I love your answer to the tattooed weirdo. I travel alone a lot, all over the country, and every so often will find myself in a situation of “how do I get rid of weird dude without antagonizing him and escalating exchange from uncomfortable to dangerous?” Your answer was pure genius. Although I’m not a parent, I do have a much younger, very petite sister with whom I often go out on day trips a few hours from home, or we visit our brothers in Boston (considerably larger city than where either of us live). She is more of a homebody than I am, so her experience with warding off unsavory types is extremely limited; this naturally results in my becoming HER protectorate. I find that merely knowing she is less ready to defend makes me go into Mama Bear mode very quickly…as witnessed by a large group of smokers hanging at the rear entrance of a club one night in Boston. She and I had driven down to meet with our 2 brothers and our older male cousin. Of the group, I am older than everyone but the cousin, and, at the time, my sister had only recently turned 21. At one point, we needed the ladies’ room so I took her by the hand and showed her how to squeeze through the crowd quickly. We had to cross a very wide room to get to the baths, and of course there was a long line. A gigantic guy, six anda half feet at least and well over 250 ppounds, tried to strike up conversation. He was plastered and more than a little gross in his manner of address. He was particularly interested in Seester, and I was not pleased. When our turn finally came, she and I ducked in and he FOLLOWED us into the tiny bathroom! I yelled at him to leave, but he kept pushing. I told Seester to get in the stall and stay there and I let the guy have it. I screamed every obscenity I could muster and shoved at his chest to get him out. The door opened IN, so I was really struggling and he was just laughing at my fury.I kept at him, shouting “Get OUT!!!” at the top of my lungs. I got a chance to make him stumble and tugged my hardest at the door even though he was still half- blocking it. Suddenly the door flew open and three or four other guys yanked him from behind and dragged him out into the alley, scolding him the whole time and threatening what they’d do if he didn’t stay out. They came back in, and told us it was a good thing I fought him…because they thought he was with us at first and wouldn’t have interferedif I hhadn’t protested him following us!
    On the other side of the club, our 3 big strong family members were unaware of the entire scene…until Seester told them, and they said, “Oh, is THAT what all those people were rushing over to see? We figured it was a fight so we stayed over here…”
    Your way of handling things is much more refined ;).

    • Well, my situation was not quite as dire. I can’t guarantee that I would have stayed so refined in the scenario you described. I think that one might have induced panic. πŸ˜‰

      • I guess any situation could become dire if the weirdo gets insulted or angry…and that was what I meant. It can be so difficult to find a response that makes your position clear yet avoids antagonism. Now, I generally would not (old school vernacular alert!) “Get medieval” on someone who’s just calmly creepy and not in my personal space, such as your tattooed weirdo in DC. But, I might have been too verbally aggressive in my response, whereas you kept very cultured and civil. Alternatively, in my public bathroom scenario, and particularly if I had been alone, my response could have been too calm and I may have tried to laugh it off and politely asked him to leave…possibly endangering myself because I chose the wrong method of handling the situation.
        While I would never say we are always victims, I do believe that, as women, we are regularly the targets of unwanted attention and many men do not appreciate how that can affect our social behavior. We have to be vigilant in so many ways that a lot of men (and some women) do not even consider. I won’t allow it to prevent me from doing the things I want to do, or from traveling alone or with others who might need me to be their guardian, but it does place a certain extra burden upon those of us who seem to be the “weaker” members of society when viewed by the sketchball types out there. And that’s my real point here. It is a delicate balance, and all the more challenging when you have to protect someone else at the same time. I hope your daughter and my sister both learned something from those incidents. Unfortunately, the odds are such that they may have to handle something like this by themselves one day.

        • I think the situation was a bit traumatic for my daughter. She doesn’t remember him asking me if I had just told him to f**k off. That’s the exact moment her eyes widened though. I think she just blocked it out as too much. You are right that the right reaction in one situation is exactly the wrong one in another. Our success depends on being able to read or guess the scenario correctly.

          • Agreed. And I think it is important, too, that girls grow up understanding that if boys/ men in her life don’t take this sort of thing seriously, she needs to consider that in her relationships with them. A boyfriend who expects her to walk alone across a college campus at night is not worth dating. And any friend who would take off and leave her behind at a club or party is a crappy friend. Trusting people who don’t value each other’s safety can turn out horribly. I’ve dumped more than one person (“friends” and boyfriends) because they didn’t think personal safety concerns were valid. Real friends look out for each other no matter what. πŸ™‚

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