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Elevators  

Let those on get off before you get on. Got it?

With women, the general rule is that a gentleman never takes advantage of the fact that they are at your mercy – even for innocuous conversation. And, in an enclosed space such as an elevator, they are at your mercy. This rule does not apply if there is one man and several women, or in most group situations. But if you are alone on an elevator with a women you don’t know, then you keep your mouth shut and stare straight ahead.

The following story, told by David Letterman among others, is not true, but still illustrates how women can feel vulnerable in elevators.

On a recent weekend in Atlantic City, a woman won a bucketful of quarters at a slot machine. She took a break from the slots for dinner with her husband in the hotel dining room.

But first she wanted to stash the quarters in her room. “I’ll be right back and we’ll go to eat,” she told her husband and she carried the coin-laden bucket to the elevator. As she was about to walk into the elevator she noticed two men already aboard. Both were black. One of them was big…very big… an intimidating figure. The woman froze. Her first thought was: These two are going to rob me.

Her next thought was: Don’t be a bigot; they look like perfectly nice gentlemen. But racial stereotypes are powerful, and fear immobilized her. She stood and stared at the two men. She felt anxious, flustered and ashamed. She hoped they didn’t read her mind. Surely they knew her hesitation about joining them the elevator was all too obvious. Her face was flushed. She couldn’t just stand there, so with a mighty effort of will she picked up one foot and stepped forward and followed with the other foot and was on the elevator.

Avoiding eye contact, she turned around stiffly and faced the elevator doors as they closed. A second passed, and then another second, and then another. Her fear increased! The elevator didn’t move. Panic consumed her. My God, she thought, I’m trapped and about to be robbed! Her heart plummeted. Perspiration poured from every pore.

Then … one of the men said, “Hit the floor.”

Instinct told her: Do what they tell you. The bucket of quarters flew upwards as she threw out her arms and collapsed on the elevator carpet. A shower of coins rained down on her. Take my money and spare me, she prayed. More seconds passed. She heard one of the men say politely, “Ma’am, if you’ll just tell us what floor you’re going to, we’ll push the button.” The one who said it had a little trouble getting the words out. He was trying mightily to hold in a belly laugh. She lifted her head and looked up at the two men. They reached down to help her up.

Confused, she struggled to her feet. “When I told my man here to hit the floor,” said the average sized one, “I meant that he should hit the elevator button for our floor. I didn’t mean for you to hit the floor, ma’am.” He spoke genially. He bit his lip. It was obvious he was having a hard time not laughing.

She thought: My God, what a spectacle I’ve made of myself.

She was too humiliated to speak. She wanted to blurt out an apology, but words failed her. How do you apologize to two perfectly respectable gentlemen for behaving as though they were going to rob you?

She didn’t know what to say. They helped her collect her quarters and the elevator arrived at her floor. She left embarrassed; the men were laughing.

Later that evening, a dozen roses were delivered to her room. There was a one hundred dollar bill attached to each rose. The card with the roses said: “Thanks for the best laugh we’ve had in years.”

It was signed,

Eddie Murphy & Michael Jordan

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