I slightly sprained my ankle over the weekend. So, stairs and I are not the best of friends this morning. Luckily, the train station near my job has elevators. I generally don’t use them, but today I swoop into the first elevator behind two other women just as the doors close. As we are at the lowest level and each just left the same train, there only one direction to go, up. One woman, on my left, is standing by the call panel, I notice she is holding a paper towel sheet. A common enough sight these days in the world of Covid. The other woman slightly to my right has a cane. The three of us do that I see you, but I’m not looking at you, thing in which all mass transit commuters and in this case, strangers in an elevator excel.

I’m mentally patting myself on the back for my excellent timing for the elevator so a few seconds pass before I realize we are not ascending to the mezzanine level. I look at the call panel and sure enough neither woman has pressed the button. I was about to make a little joke on how elevators might work a little better if at least one of us remembered to push the button, when the woman to my right sucks her teeth, rolls her eyes and reaches in front of the woman to my left to press the call button.  

Okay. Clearly something is going on there that I missed, but my name’s Nat, I’m not in that. Whatever.

There is an odd tense silence as we ascend to the mezzanine level and exit. We make our way to the next elevator that takes us to the street level. In this elevator, the woman who was to the right of me, and I have switched places. Like the previous elevator, there is only one destination to choose, the three of us are going to the street level. It’s an unspoken rule in such situations, if they are nice, the first person to enter an elevator will hold the door open button for others to safely enter before they push the button for the floor. IF they are nice. And that’s when I begin to see the problem.

The woman with the paper towel, having entered first is again closest to the buttons, but for some reason she does not push it. She stares straight ahead clearly expecting the other woman or I to push the call button. You know, the call button that she is standing right in front of.

Now I know why there was teeth sucking and eye rolling as I struggle not to follow suit with a annoyed huff. I remind myself these two women are my elders. If I’m lucky I will annoy some near sixty-year-old person with my own special brand of curmudgeon-dy in another decade or so. Still…

No. No. No. No. No. It is barely 7 in the dang morning! It is MUCH too early for such trifling nonsense. And I haven’t had my coffee yet!

To put in some context, the trains were fast this morning. I am really early for work, so I could easily be 100% that bi-er-that person and wait the two of them out. However, my ankle chose that moment to remind me of its slightly-less-than-optimal existence.

Fine! I’ll be the mature one.

Now you know any situation where I, Raivenne, am forced to be the mature one, is a stupid situation. I start to reach for the button when the woman with the cane clears her throat loudly. You know that throat clearing sound your mama made right behind you when she’s caught you doing something you know have no business doing? It was that sound. It was near Pavlovian the quickness in which I snatched my hand back like a switch took to it.

“Etiquette dictates when walking with a sharp implement you do so with the point towards you, because in case of an accident ‘cause it’s kinder to harm oneself than another. It seems t’me the one with the ability to protect us all from the germs on them nasty ol’ buttons with that trusty lit’l napkin they carryin’ jus’ for that purpose should be like the kind one and press it fo’ us all.”

Aww sookie-sookie now!

I don’t know if Napkin Lady was from the south, but Ms. Cane surely was. Her call out was delivered with all the all sugar and spice and mint julip enough to make Scarlett O’Hara, or at least Julia Sugarbaker, proud.   And me?

Hmm, I never noticed that spot on the wall before! It looks old. Surely facilities had been through here over the long weekend, the floor is cleanHow long has it been there?

Yeah, let me tell you, that wall in front of me was The Most Interesting thing in the cosmos just then. Enough that I embodied the three monkeys because I was not saying a dang thing as I pretended that I did not see as napkin clad knuckle pressed the call button, nor heard the very self-satisfied sniff behind me.

I swear for a moment it felt like I went back in time and I was that small child caught between grown folks arguing about grown folks things and hoping they don’t notice I’m there and then turn on me for listening to grown folks conversation when I can’t go anywhere because I’m not grown and (whoa – whoaaaa – sorry about that – tiny bit of PTSD there – I’m back…).  I did not have to see it to know some serious side-eye between those two happened behind me. I’m just grateful I didn’t hear (in)sincere apologies if a cane accidentally made contact with a foot.

When the elevator doors opened, I got off first and left them to whatever passive-aggressive shenanigans were employed before they went their not-so-merry little ways.

Let’s see how others are slicing it out this Tuesday…

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I was parsing out some advice to a friend a couple of days ago who then commented “Why do you always have just the right answer, Raivenne?”. Of course me, being me gave her a sarcastic and completely narcissistic, but humorous reply at the time, but it set me to thinking. It was not the first time I unintentionally found myself in the role of wizened advisor as of late and had a similar comment made regarding it.  It made me wonder were my advisors, when I have questions?

I lost one set of grandparents before I was born. I lost the other set by my mid-twenties. I have no siblings. Other than my sons, I am estranged from everyone I am related to by blood by mutual apathy. My family is the one  created from marriage and from those whose lives have intertwined with mine over the decades. Even so, my personal family is small and at this stage of my life, pretty much without elders.

Some things are irreplaceable. Recipes I never had a chance to learn, childhood pictures and family stories forever lost. Apologies that never had to chance to be given or perhaps received.

It started hitting home one day when a group of us peers were sitting around the dining room and realized we were now the ages of our parents, aunts, uncles et cetera when many of us met and become the tight-knit group we were. We are now the elders.  Back then, none of us in our early thirties to early forties lives, were ready to embrace that title. Now at fifty and one of the youngest of that core group, and having already lost a few of them -including my husband- there’s no denying it.

When my husband died, the few elders I had loved, trusted, would turn to for advice were no longer among us. Luckily among my peers in real life and one or two from the Internet a wellspring of information and inspiration was found and I happily get by and for the most part thrive on it.

Mine is an interesting sort of elder-hood at this moment. I have no grandchildren, no nieces or nephews. No immediate young family to look up me with their expectant eyes while I bake pies and look oh so wise over my bi-focal glasses. My late-husband and I somehow raised two very self-contained men who at this point in their lives are even less ready to see me as crone than I am. Most of my motherly advice, worldly wisdom -such as it’s not- goes to my younger peers. The twenties and thirties among my friends who are where I once stood 20 -30 years ago. And you know what?-that works for me.

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