Over the summer, I tutored at a high school in downtown L.A. It was about thirty minutes biking one way, and in one of those I’m-gonna-change-and-start-exercising-and-eating-kale-and-shit moments that was so not worth it in hindsight, I biked to work every morning at 7:30 AM. It was all uphill, as if the universe wanted to make sure I had stories to complain about to my grandkids. To make matters worse, this past summer was clearly evidence of global warming, which I discovered after arriving at work my first day drowning in an avalanche of my own sweat. To avoid causing any flood warnings from the amount of water exploding from my body after my morning bike ride, I wore athletic clothes and changed into my fancy work clothes once I got to the school.
One morning, I was running late (well, later than usual), and despite my furious peddling skills, I knew it was going to be one of those awkward mornings where I shuffle in and everyone stares at me and I suffer infinite embarrassment. I hate being late. Once I got there, I would have to change into my work clothes, making me even later than I already was. I zoomed up to the school and a thought popped into my head. It was one of those ideas that’s really stupid but the rush of adrenaline and an underdeveloped brain make it seem like the greatest idea in the whole fucking world. I decided to change in the elevator.
I ran into the elevator, shiftily glancing around the empty street, looking more like I was about to deal drugs than strip down. The doors shut with me safely enclosed, and I ripped off my damp shirt. I stuffed it into my backpack and ruffled around for my dress blouse. Suddenly, the doors opened to reveal a middle-aged man ready for his typical day at work. I froze. He froze. We stood staring at each other for a good minute. The man’s mouth was slightly agape, his eyes not daring to blink in case it was all just dream. And me, standing in my bra with my eyes blinking furiously, hoping this was just an apparition. “I…I’m changing. For work,” I sputtered. He waited a moment more before walking into the elevator like it was any other morning. The doors closed. We stood there, me silently panicking as I searched for my goddamn shirt that was nowhere to be found. This must be what it’s like when Jesus plays a prank on humans. The man continued to stand beside me, unmoving. I finally realized why. The numbers were all on my side of the elevator, and he was either too frightened or polite to reach over and press his floor. Assuming a newfound confidence to ease the awkwardness of the situation, I held my head high, shirtless and proud. “What floor?” “Uh…one.” One? And he couldn’t take the fucking stairs?! I pressed one and the elevator moved. Jesus finally took pity and I found my shirt. When the elevator reached his floor, the man exited without saying a word. I like to think I made his day.