The most awkward moments in life, are not when the old lovers meet again or when your family finds out that you’re a queer. It’s when you are stuck in the lift with your boss – for 10 minutes or more.
If being hairy, and built out of inordinate bones aren’t the only things, that make me, how some of those ladies put the best; “an obnoxious cock”, then you also must know, that I am part of a nine to five desk job, where the management asks me to shut my face in the computers and type incessantly. So think of all the things that can keep a guy tied unwillingly in the cocoon of social abhorrence and I have them in abundance. Long complex story short; I am short!
I am, however, never sad or vocal about it. After all, no one shows compassion to a dwarf who says, “I am not happy”, their immediate response is, “then which one are you?” Now I know, I know, it’s an old joke, but some of these people repeat it like a broken record.
So on an ordinary day, I look around and all I see, are people in their formal clothes, hating their tie colours that don’t go very well with their belts and hitting their keyboards, like wife-beaters on some kind of highly violent hallucinogens (like that AZ from that Jacob’s ladder movie). But I, on the other hand, tend to keep away from all that antagonism, for I am mostly funny, mostly friendly and mostly clubby, but not, “I-would-gel-with-six-footers-and-have-a-great-time”, clubby.
I don’t know many people on their first name basis at work. People here are either indifferent or cold or both. It’s like a classroom, where everyone has been punished for something that they have not done or have no clue about. I have never lifted my head up from the computer and asked the guy on the other side of the cubicle, if he wants to grab a sandwich or something; mostly because I am three and a half feet tall and I can’t see the other side of the cubicle and also, because I don’t quite like sandwiches.
All my life, I have been called names; Midget, Dwarf, Shorty (I can’t even…), Lilliput, but my favourite one has to be “Tingu”. Because, Midget is derogatory, Dwarf is too mainstream and shorty is the American slang for a hot chick, so clearly, I think I am just a Tingu; very Indian, very familiar, and maybe someone right from your own block.
When I was growing up ‑ which I know, sounds very Ironic given my height – I hated being the way I was. But ever since, Tyrion Lannister wooed ladies and whores, and all the gangster clans started including a midget in their group, just for the heck of it, I gained confidence in an unimaginable way. In my head, I was untouchable sacrosanct cool-boy, who no longer cared how tall he was and who flipped people’s cases wide open with sarcasm, for he had nothing to lose.
Except for this last Friday, when I walked in to the office and swiped my card, jumping my uneven ass at least once for it. I always have to do that, they have pinned the swiping machine or whatever it is called, a little too high on the door. Sometimes I think, it’s mostly to mock me and somewhere in the security room, sitting behind the CCTV monitors, is a fat tall black guy eating burgers and laughing at me, as I do my kind of Olympics.
So anyway, I saw my boss enter the main door at the same time. Let’s just say, I am not really a fan of his; because he is a boss and no one likes bosses and also because he is six and a half. So he and I always have awkward encounters and group pictures. In one of the team photos, I look like a tourist standing next to Burj Khalifa (expressionless and hollow building like a man that he is).
So we both walked in to the elevator at the same time that day. He was about to step on me, but I immediately made my presence felt, by coughing out loud. I had learnt this trick long back, in fact, in my case, it’s not really a trick, it’s more of a necessity.
Okay, now, let me tell you something about a dwarf, about any dwarf, in any elevator in the world. The elevators smells very-very different to us. Specially crowded ones. The smell of unwashed socks, farts, scratchy balls and all that – yes, you guessed that right, we are the fastest receptors of the human stench. But on the brighter side, at least cops don’t use us, instead of German Shepherds to trace down psychotic hoodlums yet.
Inside elevators, people often rub their laptop bags on my chin, mess my perfectly combed greasy hair with their clammy asses, elbow my forehead while folding their sleeves and do unimaginable things I am ashamed to admit. I mostly have my survival reflexes in place for all such situations, but I have no cope-up strategy for meeting my boss all alone. But there we were; stuck in the chamber that moved.
“Ohh. I did not see you there. ” he said, as he leaned forward to press the lift button.
“Well…hello to you too,” I said, trying to make an eye contact, without twisting my neck all the way backwards (I could have been in a circus and people would have clapped at that performance). I could instantly feel the pain of all the first row audiences in the world, in all the movie theatres.
“How are you doing this morning?” He asked, as if he cared. Bosses can do that so well. They can look in to your eyes, skin your gut out and convince you, that you died a natural death. Just like, how they can fire you, and make you believe that it’s for your own good.
And that day, by all laws of Murphy, the lift broke down; and it stopped and then it did not open.
“I am fine I said.”
“We are stuck” he said, slightly annoyed.
“Ohh trust me!” I thought, “I am stuck, not you. I got stuck at three and half feet and never grew up, you on the other hand, are still growing. You have grown up more than you parents anticipated and more than front doors around the world, wanted you to. You should probably reduce a little. Cut off your legs or hunch yourself down like Gollum. Or best, sit on a wheelchair and wheel around?” It’s amazing how my mind works in situations like these.
Five minutes of broken lift and the Lift-man manually opened the door with a rod, wedging it right through the middle of it. We were stuck between two floors. We were neither at the sixth floor, where we don’t work, nor were we at the seventh floor, where we do work.
“Sir, you’ll have to climb up.” The soft looking, clean shaved, lift man extended his arm towards my boss, and in my head, a cheesy Bollywood track started playing in the background, there were flowers sprinkling through the gaps, they danced shabbily around trees, and it felt like spring. Now, to be annoyed at the fact that the guard did not see me, or offered me a hand, would have been a sheer ignorance on my part and also a reflection of how far from the reality I am.
So I did not yell, cough or move. I just stood at the back, with eyes shut, arms crossed, gums being masticated between my jaws. In short, I was chilling like a villain, minus all that, you know, swag and bling – I was a classic case of a pantywaist.
My boss scratched his head with his pinkie (I don’t exactly know why), mouthed a warm whiff, shrugged and said those, not three, not four, not five, but those nine magical Godfatherish words; “I will make you an offer you can’t refuse”.
Wait. What? What did he mean? What was he offering? I did not want any offers or hands or jobs!
He approached me, tried to grab me by my waist. I backed away. He came closer, I moved away fleetly, between his legs, on the corners of the elevator; he was the butcher, I was the chicken, he was the shepherd, I was the sheep, he was Tom, I was Jerry. He was… well, you get the drift, right?
But once he analyzed my next move, he waited like a predator, behind his bushy face, and then leaned down, grabbed me by my waist and put me on the seventh floor, while I pleaded, “nooooooo”, like a five year old on his first day to school. So yes, he did the unimaginable – he made me feel smaller, than I already was.