Hell Is Other People: The Lady Who Smokes Too Much

So, while not a full non-smoker yet, I haven’t smoked at work in years. That said, I recognize myself in the tribe of folks I see huddled in the smoking area (when they feel like obeying that rule) and the general air of miserableness they broadcast alongside smelling like Dick Cavett’s lungs.

There’s this one woman, probably 50ish (or a hard mid-40’s), who I share the elevator with occasionally. She’s got that particular look of a woman who was probably THE hottest chick at the Whitesnake concert back in 1987, but things ain’t been goin’ so good for since then.

We both arrive at the elevator at the same time, me all fresh-faced and sunnily ready to face a brave new workday (no, seriously; it’s usually 11am or so before the workday hogties my optimism and shoves it face-first into a mud puddle). Her, smothered in a miasma of ashtray funk and positively radiating hatred for her fellow man. I recognize that impulse, so I wordlessly wave her into the elevator car ahead of me.

Once we’re onboard, I hear a grunted, smoke-smothered “nice tats” in an octave low enough to make more sense coming from, say, an emphysemic trucker than a whippet-thin blonde office worker.

I’m pretty sure she complimented my ink years ago, but she doesn’t strike me as someone who’s particular about remembering things, so okay. I’ll take the morning compliment, they’re rare enough. I reply with a “Aw, thanks”.

Aside: I never know how to reply to a compliment about tattoos. “Thanks” seems trite and obvious; what, am I gonna go “Oh, no, they’re total bullshit. Garbage. I regret them every second of my existence”? I hate social interaction.

As the elevator slows down to stop at her floor, again, without making any eye contact, she grumbles out “Back to Hell”.

Okay, that’s the sorta line one might expect from a co-worker or something, but it would usually be delivered with at least a hint of a smile or smirk in the tone. She, however, delivered it in the same tone of voice I would expect to hear from an animal lover returning to their shift at the Puppy Strangling Factory.

She then followed that up with “god I fucking hate this place” as she walked out.

I get being miserable. I don’t get inflicting it upon total strangers who can’t really share why you hate everything, so we end up just feeling kinda bad for a stranger, which isn’t a fun position to be put into in the morning. It certainly sent me off the elevator in a grumpier mood than I was in when I got on it.

So, Terrible Lady, I ask that maybe you double-up on the Parliament Lights next time you’re out there, because that single cancer stick isn’t doing shit to improve your mood.

Author: Shawn Ritchie

Chicago, Whiskeys, Guitars, Blackhawks and Nerdery.

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