Each morning, after I drop my three kids at two schools, I head home to start everything else I need to accomplish that day before pickup, clock already ticking in my head. We live in a hundred-year-old apartment building with an elevator that needs an attendant to run it. Elevator operators are a dying breed, to be sure, but our building has one, and most of the time it’s pretty great (for security and peace of mind).
|not my elevator operator, but a close facsimile|
It does mean, however, that small talk is required each morning coming and going with the same person (Eduardo) since we moved in eight years ago. And while Eduardo is unfailingly pleasant, he has a limited repertoire of things he likes chat about. During each of my three pregnancies, I had to hear EVERY MORNING that I was “pretty big.” (Pause.) “And going to get a lot bigger.” (Finally, my husband took an elevator ride to nowhere just so he could gently suggest to Eduardo that he pursue an subject of discussion besides my hippo-like size.)
Now that I’m not pregnant, I don’t have a size assessment each morning, but Eduardo’s new topic is just about as bad. These days, this is how our conversation goes five days a week:
ME: (walking in to elevator) Hi, Eduardo.
EDUARDO: Hi, Amy.
(silence for a few floors)
EDUARDO: … everybody at school now huh?
ME: (already starting to grit my teeth a little) Mm-hmm.
(silence for a few more floors)
EDUARDO: …so now Mommy gets a break!
Eduardo is saying this TO BE NICE. Just TO SAY ANYTHING. And yet each morning it is getting a little harder for me not to take him down with my thirty-pound tote bag.
“A break?!” I want to scream. “No! My work STARTS now! I have two hundred and seventy-three things I need to do before eleven-thirty! I am not going to lie on the couch watching Judge Judy!”
But I do not. Since Eduardo is not a parent, he has no sense of what a SAHM/WAHM does all day. And it’s not his fault: neither does anyone else. I saw a movie just last week about a couple with a young baby. They have a nanny but have to fire her. A few scenes later, the dad goes off to work, the baby goes down for a nap, and the mother, gazing idly around at her spotless kitchen, sits down at her kitchen counter with a magazine and a cup of tea.
I saw this and it was all I could do not to boomerang the remote control right through the TV screen. Yep! You nailed it, filmmakers! That’s what every mom without help does when her baby takes a nap: puts her feet up with a magazine until he wakes up! What verisimilitude!
Nobody on that film set (including the actress) was a mother, clearly, or that scene would not have been filmed that way. It’s not their fault they don’t know, I guess, but it still makes me mad that people who don’t get it… don’t get it. They don’t assume mothers are busy. They assume we’re mind-numbingly idle. And I guess, as long as we allow that fantasy to continue, it will.
Should I say something (nicely) to my elevator operator friend? Am I way too sensitive here? Do you encounter people who can’t possibly imagine what you do all day?
(photograph by JB Reed, taken from this NYT web page: a very interesting interview with an elevator operator about to be modernized out of a job)