Aug 4, 2007

Elevator chats

We've all heard of the concept of the "elevator pitch", right? Well, my apartment community in Beijing has elevators, which is great, and even better, they are staffed by female elevator attendants from Henan province. They sit inside the elevators from morning until night, and they'll hit your floor's button if they recognize you. 99 times out of 100, I never get asked for my floor. The 100th time is the day when there is a new worker on board, and afterward, they always remember me.

I have at least two great chances every day, going out in the morning to work and coming back at night, to have an "elevator Chinese lesson" with the attendants or whomever else is around. It's hard to come up with fresh material to chat with them about, though. I feel pressure to keep my jokes and my routine fresh and up-to-date, much as a stand up comic might feel.

Obvious, but boring topics, might be: "gee, this weather is something, huh?", "how are you doing today", "how long are you working today", and the like.

I've had some new material over the past few months, which I'll share with you here, translated into English for your reading convenience:

Exchange 1:

Scene: I stand outside the elevator door on the ground floor. The "going down" light illuminates. The elevator door opens, and the female attendant shouts out "下" (going down). The elevator is descending to floor B1, the basement level, and it will return ten seconds later. Two or three Chinese folks get on the elevator and go down. I wait ten seconds, the same elevator returns, the "up" arrow illuminates, and the door opens. The same two or three Chinese folks that just got on the elevator are still inside. They didn't get off in the basement for some reason. I now enter the elevator.

[Talking to the attendant] Looks like some people got on the elevator, rode down to the basement, and then came back to the first floor.

Elevator attendant girl:
[Blank stare]

Other Chinese folks in the elevator:
[Ignoring me]

[Talking to the attendant] Yeah, they should check out the signal outside the elevator that shows whether it's going up or down.

Elevator attendant girl:
[Blank stare]

[Talking to the attendant] It's a good way to save time.

The elevator arrives at my floor

Elevator attendant girl:
See you

See you

[I think this exchange was funny only to me. I can't help it if no one else understands my sense of humor.]

Exchange 2:

Scene: I've entered the elevator with a couple of Chinese residents. One of the residents is a man carrying two shopping bags, one stuffed to the brim with giant leeks, the other packed with about thirty eggs. The man with the bags exits the elevator at his floor, and I stay on board to chat.

Me: [Talking to the attendant] Looks like that guy is really hungry. So many leeks and so many eggs! He must really like eggs if he's buying so many.

Elevator attendant girl:
[Blank stare, then matter-of-factly speaks] He's shopping for the people in his family also.

[Thinking to myself: I guess they don't stress the teaching of irony and sarcasm in the Chinese educational system. This was yet another joke that was funny only to me.]

Exchange 3:

Scene: I've entered the elevator. After I'm on board, a tall Chinese woman, at least 5'10", gets on board. The elevator goes up, and the woman exits at her floor.

Me: [Talking to the attendant] Wow, she was so tall! Like a bean sprout!

Elevator attendant girl:
[Smiles, bashfully] Yeah.

[This is one of the best responses I've gotten so far from an elevator attendant to one of my jokes. I believe that it was the term "bean sprout" (豆芽菜) that did it.]

Exchange 4:

Scene: I've entered the elevator. After I'm inside, a Chinese guy lugs his full-size mountain bike onto the elevator.

Me: [Talking to the man] Hey man, you know we've got a bike parking area in the basement of our building, right?

Bike man:
Yeah, I know.

So why do you bother lugging the bike up and down the elevator?

[I already know the answer to this one, of course: thievery. I already had two bicycles stolen out of the basement of our building, even though it's supposedly watched over by our apartment community's security guards. This guy's bike would no doubt get stolen within one day, should he be silly enough to put it in the basement.]

Bike man: It's safer. I already lost a few bikes here.

"Lost"? Do you mean "stolen"?

Bike man:

Yeah, I know what you mean. Bike thieves are running rampant around here. I think they're in cahoots with the security guards. Bikes are being stolen even after the bike parking area is closed up and locked for the night.

These are all the routines I'm going to share for today. If you're living somewhere with an elevator attendant and want to try out these comedy gems, go ahead, but please give credit where it's due.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

in your exchange two scene,i don't think you need to use irony, if i encounter him, i will think how strong he is, he will take so many things at one time. would you like to have another foreigner's blog. He is different form you in writhing style.

5:13 AM  

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