Someday I hope I will be like the sweet little old lady I met on an elevator at the end of a hot, summer’s day, in 2005.

I was working downtown. It was the kind of heat that really hit you like a brick wall and sucked the air from your lungs. Sweat instantly sprung from places where you didn’t know you had places. And it was approaching 5 p.m. – the time of “mass exodus” from the downtown core. Everyone was hot, tired, and in a hurry. Tempers flared at every intersection; people were impatient with bike couriers and red lights.

I was hot and tired, and in a hurry as well, not wanting to miss my train and have to wait another 30 minutes for the next one in the humid, crowded hub of the main train station. l hustled and elbowed my way through the steamy, pungent mob of miscreants dressed in business suits and white sneakers to the edge of the elevator cage. By this time, I was 8 months pregnant. My ankles were swollen and my co-workers were beginning to wonder how I managed to roll out of bed every morning.

Most of those waiting for the elevator at least appeared to have functioning legs. There were a couple of men in business suits with briefcases, and at least one little old lady. One of the well-dressed, greasy-coiffed gentlemen had marinated in his aftershave hours before, and still emitted a sickeningly sweet scent that threatened to choke anyone standing near him. But as the elevator slowly descended, we no longer gave him a wide berth. To do so would have meant certain failure to achieve our goal – a spot in that tiny cage.

With grim determination, I made my way into that tiny cage and fought to suppress the anxiety at being confined in so small a space with so much body odour, when a middle-aged guy (whose legs really did appear to work), squeezed into the elevator behind me. I could hear him mumbling (rather loudly) disdainful comments about the inconvenience of having to share the microscopic space with others, under his breath. As he pushed into my back with his briefcase, to try to make me move forward, though heaven knows where exactly he thought there was room, I snarked: “I’m sorry, I can’t suck it in any more”! The entire elevator erupted into laughter, except for Bozo the Businessman.

I wasn’t sure whether to feel guilty for being so rude or proud of myself for being assertive. Based on the looks he was getting as he fumbled his way into the elevator, and the response I received from my snark, I was leaning toward the latter. That’s when my eyes rested on a dear little old lady. She had short grey curls and wire-rimmed glasses. She wore a purple-flowered dress and pearls, and she clutched a sturdy black handbag. She was pressed up against the glass to my left and facing me, smiling.

The doors opened and the assault on my person began again from Bozo the Businessman, and we all inched our way forward and on to the platform. As he pushed past me roughly, this same sweet little old lady whispered in my ear, “Good one dear!”, then screamed “jerk!” at his retreating back.

I never got to thank her, but I do hope, someday, to be just like her. To give someone a little boost of confidence in standing up for themselves (or others) in a bad situation, but more importantly, to say it like it is, sister: “JERK”!

Cheers to Little Old Ladies!

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