“Pffffff, ong ay at t office?” said Michael in a muffled grunt, almost like a noise from a dog, as he just barely lifted the hairs above his lip that lie in his thick, gray mustache.
“Yup yup.” I said in a friendly, but sort of confused response. And every single day, it was that same question, and almost nothing more. If I am being completely honest, I never came to understand if he knew that I was in high school, or if he truly believed I was a working man. He seemed like he could have been a 60 year old from brooklyn, or an 80 year old from Europe. He never once said a full, complete, enunciated sentence, so it was impossible for me to decipher his place of origin. It was always just a few basic words here or there. Was he completely sane? Probably not. But, he was such a simple, harmless man that people never really thought more about him. He was the guy that worked the old elevator shaft, just pushing down the leaver to go, and pulling the lever up to stop. And when the new renovation was complete, he was the guy who pushed the buttons. Although he was supposed to be working the elevator manually, he never did.
He always had a newspaper in his back pocket, but I can say with almost 100% certainty that they were not current papers. They had a warm yellowish tint, very different from the current dull, gray papers. Were they editorials? Were they old headlines? I don’t think anyone could give you a definitive answer since he quickly put them away at the sight of a person walking by.
He also always had a gold pocket watch in his front pocket. Occasionally, to pass the awkward silence, he would pull it out, and in the same muffled grunt say, “pfffff, 1 hour till dinner.” Then, at the end of the ride, he would mention in a sort of surprising tone, “mhmmm, took 42 seconds,” or “whao, took 46 seconds.” Obviously, the elevator was taking the same length of time to go from 1 to 16 every time, but Michael would always change that 40-something number by a second of two.
I often contemplated if I liked Mike. I was never too sure of it. Sure he was mildly kind, occasionally helpful but never going the extra mile, and somewhat of a decent guy, but also somewhat of a nuisance. I would constantly dread those awkward elevator rides and constantly leave them feeling uneasy. Moreover, I questioned what he got paid to do. I can press buttons. I can carry luggage. I can tell people to have a nice day. But, it’s hard to appreciate a lot of things in the moment.
The day came when a new guy showed up. I said, “What happened to Mike?”
“Oh, Mike had a heart-attack and is in the hospital. He’s alive and well though, lucky man”
But as time passed, Mike never returned. Several months later I asked, “What happened to Mike, I thought he was ok.”
“Oh, you didn’t hear? Mike got fired. He faked a heart-attack. He posted something on facebook out in the country when he was supposedly in the hospital. Thank god though, that guy was a kook bag, am I right?”
Well, not really. Ya sure he was kind of a “different” guy, but he was unique. I realized once Mike was gone how much joy he actually brought me. Countess dinner conversations gravitated to talking about some crazy thing Mike did or said, he was a legend and favorite of my friends, and he meant well. He most likely struggled, didn’t seem to have a family or any hobbies, yet he still showed up to work everyday and did his thing. I think becasue in part of his coldness and odness, he never really garnered sympathy. Mike was outcast by both his colleagues and tenants of the building. However, in the future when I do finally come home after a long day at the office, I hope someone is there to ask me about it.