On a recent evening, Roxy and I headed toward the elevator to travel down to the basement parking garage so I could go home and shake off my day. I have to admit that when I’m in a cranky mood, my pet peeves erupt, and this was one of those days. I had eaten, in all, three leftover cookies in the department’s front lounge throughout the day, knowing that sugar is not my friend. I approached the elevator thinking about the many times people join me there, wearing ear buds and scrolling madly on their phones, completely tuned out to fellow travelers in this tiny space. To be fair, they may also be overworked employees, or overwhelmed students looking forward to a break, a walk outside, some time away from MIT, from people.
Nonetheless, I like to engage them – I prefer not to think I’m provoking - by striking up a conversation. I get some perverse satisfaction from the look on their faces as they force a smile, or more of a grimace (this lady has the nerve to interrupt my quiet time), and with all but an audible sigh unplug their ears to the sound of my voice saying something like, “What’s going to happen to all of us when we can’t communicate without technology?” Sometimes their eyes fly to the wall panel to see how close they are to their exit floor, but sometimes – and this gives me a little hope for the future of humanity – they smile and say, “I don’t know,” or even, “That’s a good question.”
Roxy often ambles over and sniffs the ankles of fellow passengers, I assume to check out whether they have a dog or cat at home. They usually stoop down to pet her, and getting a closer look, many ask how old she is. I try not to hear that as, “How the heck old is that dog, anyway?” She was born with the large sad eyes of an old man – the kind of eyes that, in my mind, beg, “Please buy a sectional sofa from me. I haven’t made one sale all week!” And her grayish muzzle has stood out against her curly brown hair since she was two. Roxy’s warmth toward people helps me in my crusade toward creating more personal interactions between strangers.
I was prepared for more of the same, but was pleasantly surprised when the door opened, revealing an empty elevator. I got in singing, trying to purge the sugar high from my body. My pleasure turned quickly to irritation, though, when the elevator stopped, and a tall and handsome youngish man got in just one floor below.
Just in case he had heard me through the door, I laughingly confessed to him, “I was singing a song before the door opened.” He smiled down at Roxy, who was sniffing his shoes. Without giving it much thought, I asked him, “What kind of world do you think it would be if we could keep singing on an elevator even after a stranger got in?”
He nodded, and said “Right.” Was he just humoring me, I wondered?
So I said to him, “Ok, so…sing something for me.” Sugar has been known to blur my social filter.
The man cleared his throat. “Oh, my, well…” And then, “…uhm: Do-na, no-bis, pa-a-cem pacem” and I joined him with my adequate mezzo-soprano voice, “Do naaa, no-bis, paaa-cem. Do – na – no-o-bis pacem. Do naaa, no-o-bis, pa-a-a-a-cem.” The elevator landed on the first floor and dinged as we sang the last note.
The stranger glanced my way and stepped out. I called out to the man of few words with a beautiful voice, “Well, I feel better!” and he nodded and waved.
The elevator opened to the basement, and Roxy and I got out. I thought about the many special weekends Laura and I have spent with one particular group of friends, Jan, Shelley, and Susan, singing more than a few rounds of Dona Nobis Pacem while hiking through the woods, building a fire, or making breakfast together, and I felt grateful for old friends, and grateful for willing strangers singing about peace in an elevator at the end of a long day.
The double set of stairs leading down to the parking garage helped rid me of my sugar high, but I rode the wave of another high as I sang all the way to my car.
I chose the link below despite its spooky nature. After all, this is the month of Halloween.