The Coast News Group
Columns Small Talk

Small Talk: Catching a break

At the mention of a stalled elevator, you might think of panic, much pushing of buttons, wild attacks of claustrophobia and someone shimmying up the cable for help. If that’s your first thought, you have seen too many action movies.

In my circles, that approach is far too lacking in realism to even be considered. There is quite another scenario those cloistered screenwriters have seriously overlooked, or maybe they just thought it boring.

A favorite mother-friend of mine recently played out this alternative scene when her elevator suddenly stopped midfloor. She was, of course, in the middle of a typically crazed day, in a hurry to be somewhere, already 15 minutes late. For perhaps a nanosecond, she considered pushing the emergency button, but before she even lifted her finger in that direction, she was overcome with an emotion far more compelling than panic. It was relief.

She was, you see, quite alone in the elevator car. Instead of feeling put upon and distressed, she suddenly knew she had won a “moment.” She had scored a bonus of what I like to call enforced leisure. It is pretty much the only leisure moms get, at least without lots of planning and the cost of a trip.

My friend needed only to take one deep breath to see the opportunity. She felt comfortable that assistance would be coming soon, as there were bound to be others on the opposite elevator who failed to appreciate this interlude. She simply bathed in the silence — the delicious, rare, unplanned, uninterrupted silence. No one could blame her, question her or force her to hurry up. It was a luxury ranking right up there with bon-bons, massage or an afternoon nap.

We can’t rely on sticky elevators, but we are always on the alert for a time that unintentionally graces us with some small bit of uncompromised peace. It might be that one time when all your children miraculously fall asleep for their naps simultaneously or perhaps the 10 minutes alone in the car waiting to pick up your child. Whenever you stumble over it, grab it and sit tight. The wave of normal chaos is peaking just behind you. Until it crashes over your head, just smile and breathe deeply.

For these very reasons, it’s a wonder I’m not a screaming hypochondriac. I don’t really like to squeeze in dentist’s or doctor’s appointments, but when I must, I always hope the waiting room is stocked with the latest gossip magazines. That is where I most kick back with a clear conscience, especially once you’ve donned that silly backless gown. You have no choice but to sit there, guilt-free, and read a magazine.

Whether I’m stepping into that elevator or scheduling that doctor’s visit, the words of cagey Br’er Rabbit and his timeless plea to his archenemy ring in my ears.

“Please, Br’er Fox. Please don’t throw me in that briar patch.” Oops.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer happy to indulge her not-so-guilty pleasure. Contact her at [email protected].