Had I not been pursuing a degree in Electronics, I’d have aggressively pursued sociology. Well, the fun parts of it anyway.
I’m a people-watcher. I love to study them, the way they move, their quirky, inexplicable habits. Trying to capture these details with my own body is my way of immersing myself in the study of people and of society and is one of my favorite parts of being an actor. And it is for these reasons that I just adore watching office folk.
Last week, in a very surreal turn of events, situation made me visit my uncle’s office, which I long since craved and everytime denied. An imposing building right beside LalBazaar Police Station, it stood tall withstanding the test of time, the red plaster now hardly visible. Scrutinizing the details, I walked into the office which absolutely took me by surprise. The transformation startled me. Outside it was the classical Indian office in its most primitive form, and just inside the gates was an office flooded with every imaginable modern amenity from dazzling wallpapers draping from the walls to free food counters to water purifiers to capsule LED-lit elevators!
I was continually amused by the society that had been created there. I was an outsider – the likes of Jane Goodall – throwing myself into a world to live amongst these creatures and to study their interactions.
One of my favorite parts of the office is Elevator Space Relations. This is true in any elevator scenario with more than one person, but I find it particularly interesting at the office.
I was heading down from the top floor to buy some snack and joined the 2pm elevator party just after a particularly high-level executive. Before we got on, however, he did me the good service of pretending to be interested in how I was today and I did the same for him. I told him I was good and he told me he was good. This is another fun one for me, because let’s face it: when anyone asks that question who isn’t your best friend or family member, they don’t really want an honest answer. I totally felt like junk today. I came in to the office because my uncle promised me a treat from Zeeshan, a food joint, a promise he’d long since been evading to fulfil. When he asked how I was, an honest answer would have been something like, “Oh, I’ve been better. My head was a giant, disgusting hot air balloon filled with evil pixies smacking their wands on my frontal lobe and making it through this day was no small feat but I was too afraid to call off and look like a flake.”
Something told me that would have made the last 10 floors even more awkward.
And so we stood in silence – the entire time from the top of the building to the bottom. There’s only so long one can stare at the blinking number at the top of an elevator before they feel like an idiot! It’s like we all got together one day and decided that there wasn’t enough time between point A and point B on an elevator and that since no one knows how many people may join on the way up or down, there is little possibility for discussion outside of the weather and the number of days ’til Friday. So we just stopped talking altogether.
My next favorite thing is how beautifully people will align themselves in an elevator. It’s like one big spatial relations puzzle. Every time someone new enters the picture, people in the elevator, without talking or making eye contact, will naturally work together to adjust themselves so that they leave as much room for a personal bubble as possible for everyone involved.
It’s like the bathroom stall game, where if there are three and the nearest one has someone in it, you go to the far one. Who made up these rules?
I’ll admit, I like to rebel. Sometimes when someone asks me how I am, I actually tell them. And sometimes, I actually follow-up when they lie and tell me they’re good just to see if I can shake a human answer out of them. Furthermore, I sometimes make people uncomfortable by choosing the stall directly beside them.
I get myself through my day with these little games. I’ll admit that just a few days ago there were 3 people joining me on an elevator ride whilst one of my puja shopping sprees at a local mall and I didn’t move from my space. Yes, I felt the air thick with anticipation. I felt their discomfort with the fact that there was not even spacing between the 3rd and 4th temporary members of the steel ride society but I was comfortable and deemed that everyone had an adequate amount of room. And then an amazing thing happened: everyone else adjusted to me.
I felt powerful. I felt like an elevator god, directing human traffic with my mind. I was the awkward T shaped Tetris piece and everyone had to start a new row to adjust for my addition to the stack. It was glorious.
I think I’ll start to use these powers for my rise in human society. I will be the immovable force around which others must accordingly adjust themselves. And slowly but surely, I will make my way to the top of this stupid world. One awkward elevator ride at a time.