"Whaddya do to ya leg?" is what you say to a random stranger in an elevator when you want to make things really awkward. Not! http://www.starbritewarrior.com/whaddya-do-to-ya-leg/
AWARENESS,  BEHIND-THE-SCENES,  Disability

“Whaddya Do To Ya Leg?”

“May the rest of your day be less awkward than the elevator ride.”

– Unknown

Ding! The elevator announces its arrival and the doors slide open.

A young woman using a mobility cane steps inside the empty car. A random stranger follows her in (this isn’t going to get creepy, I promise). Male, female, it doesn’t matter, the scenario always plays out the same.

Floor numbers are pressed. The elevator dance begins.

As though it’s been pre-choreographed, the two occupants take up real estate in the back left and right corners. They nod a polite hello at each other and then quickly avert their gazes.

The floor is suddenly very interesting.

The young woman starts playing with her phone but can feel the stranger’s stare. The elevator starts its journey.

Time to get awkward.

Random Stranger: “Whaddya do to ya leg?”

Accompanied by a hand pointing in the general direction of the young woman’s legs to indicate the topic of discussion. Just in case she was confused and needed clarification.

Long awkward pause.

A combination of exasperation and irritation flashes across the young woman’s features. She stands there thinking “Not again! How long until my floor comes up so I can get out of here?”

Young Woman: “I hurt it.”

Another long awkward pause. Both parties studiously avoiding eye contact.

Random Stranger: (Inhales. Rallies) “So what’s wrong with it?”

Doors open on the young woman’s floor. Saved!

Young Woman: “See ya!”

The young woman is me.

Multiple times per week random strangers in the elevator ask me very personal questions about my physical appearance.

They see the mobility sticks. I get it: The sticks are bright and funky and cool. And I’m young and pretty (apparently I have tickets on myself but that’s ok, I’m the writer and I’m all for self promotion).

They see the mobility scooter. Same scenario as the mobility sticks except now I am really short and they are tall and able to tower over me.

Just remember that I’m a feisty little thing and height intimidation doesn’t work.

They know that it’s none of their business. They know that the questions should not be asked. Yet some inner compulsion drives them to satisfy their curiosity within the confines of those four small walls.

It certainly makes for some interesting social observations and reflections as I relive the awkward elevator experience like it’s Groundhog Day.

Here’s my top seven:

1. The elevator is an intriguing social space where the etiquette is not really defined. We get into a small confined box with a bunch of strangers everyday but it never gets any less awkward. The seconds feel like hours. Everyone is trying to get somewhere. People are popping in and out like popcorn.

Conversations start and end mid-sentence. There is a perception that if you don’t say anything, it’s awkward; if you say something, particularly the wrong thing, it’s awkward. The conclusion? The whole experience is just awkward.

2. “Whaddya do to ya leg?” takes out the number one opening line, followed by “Been in an accident, have you?” in close second.

3. Generalist conversational starters like “Hi, how are you going?” are totally overrated and must be bypassed to get to the good stuff. Because hello, limited time opportunity here!

4. Playing on one’s phone and pretending to be busy does not deter people from asking nosy, annoying questions.

5. If curiosity killed the cat, then discretion is certainly the better part of valour. Elevator conversations, if you must have them, should be short and limited to fluffy bunny topics like the weather. It’s not appropriate to fire off just any old question that pops into your mind, no matter how burning a desire you have to know the answer.

Speed bump check your inner monologue and ask yourself, “Self, if I say this/ask this question of a complete random stranger, will things get really weird really quickly?” If the answer is “Duh, yes!” then save yourself the embarrassment of being written off as an insensitive jerk and steer clear of the Spanish Inquisition.

6. Remaining absolutely silent is a totally acceptable option that is completely underrated and underused.

7. I love the stairs. If only I could use them!

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42 Comments

  • Jasemine-Denise

    Ugh. I’m so sorry you have to deal with stuff like that. Oddly enough, I have a mohawk and I always get irked when people ask me weird questions about myself but it’s nothing in comparison. Like, I can’t even express how much I’d roundhouse kick someone if they said “whaddya do to ya leg?” in my presence, especially inside of an elevator.

    A friend of mine has an amputated leg and she decorates it with all these awesome costumes and outfits and I think it’s the best thing because when people ask her “What happened to your leg?” she always has some snarky but cute response.

    • Bree Hogan

      Lol I love your ’roundhouse kick’ comment Jasemine-Denise, that’s gold! I’d end up in a puddle on the floor if I attempted it, but it’s fun to visualise what the response would be. *giggle giggle!*

      Your friend sounds like a super-cool and plucky person with right amount of spunk. Go get ’em! Xx

    • Bree Hogan

      Exactly Christina, fluffy-bunny conversations like the sunny weather, the new decorations in the foyer or just a simple “Morning/Afternoon/Evening!” are all that is required. Time to leave the Spanish Inquisition for another day (and another person!).

    • Bree Hogan

      I’m happy to talk to new people if it’s the right time and place. And the question(s) should come from a place of genuine interest, not just an off-the-cuff remark! Asking me “Whaddya do to ya leg?” in the elevator definitely doesn’t fall into any of those categories. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jessica.

  • Marie

    I completely agree that silence is totally acceptable and underused in elevators. I have often felt like I have a stamp on my forehead that says! “Hi. Please talk to me no matter how inappropriate.” Thanks for this! Love it!

    • Bree Hogan

      You got me on a good day Becki, I’m not always so mature. And my responses are often accompanied with a great deal of stink-eye, lol!

    • Bree Hogan

      Nothing wrong with staring at your phone in the elevator, Kusum. I wish more people would take that option instead of firing blunt questions at me.

    • Bree Hogan

      LOL, Jessica, if I had the strength in my limbs to do that it may very well be a viable option! Watch out peeps! *hee hee!*

    • Bree Hogan

      I think it’s because we are a captive audience, Heather, that people forget about social boundaries and just go for it…brain fart central in the elevators!

    • Bree Hogan

      Yup they totally can Leslie. It always makes me laugh (cringe!) when the elevator is basically empty and someone chooces to come and stand Right. Next. To. Me. Ummm….what?! I’m in my personal space bubble here peeps! 🙂

    • Bree Hogan

      I think sometimes that awkward is an understatement Laci, lol! Uncomfortable and cringe-worthy are other descriptive words that start to come to mind in certain circumstances…!

    • Bree Hogan

      I agree Jenny, kids and elevators are a funny combination. I don’t mind kiddies asking me random questions as they are so innocent and don’t really know/understand any better at their age. Grown-ups are a totally different kettle of fish!

  • Charlene

    Ugh. I hate awkward elevator conversations. I work on the 7th floor and take the stairs often, but if a lot of people are leaving at the same time, it’s just as awkward to take the stairs instead of getting in the elevator with them. Ugh.

    • Bree Hogan

      Sounds like you are in a catch-22 with this one Charlene! The awkward is still gonna happen but it comes down to which option provides a get-out-of-there-the-quickest card. I think in this instance the elevator would win out as it has speed (unless it’s stopping all stations) over walking down the 7 flights of stairs. Good luck!

  • Crystal // Dreams, etc.

    People can be so nosy and it drives me crazy. I often wonder if it sounded better in their head… but still wonder why they thought it sounded okay. And elevators are so awkward! I prefer to just ride the elevator silently and I feel like that would take care of any awkwardness, but I think some people don’t handle silence well and need to fill it with the awkward chit-chat.

    • Bree Hogan

      I agree with you Crystal, some people don’t handle silence very well at all. Me, I like it, and I think we could all do with a bit more of it in our busy, busy daily lives. Let’s start in elevator!

  • Christina

    Personally, I use those awkward moments as opportunities to practice my improv skills (aka telling the biggest and best whopper I can possibly think of in the moment). I’ve been known to tell people that I had an unfortunate run-in with an escapee elephant from the circus; had to fight off manatees on my last trip to the coast (they’re not the docile little water cows everyone thinks they are, believe me); or that I got into a fight with a dance mom (like on the tv show), but not to worry…she looks a lot worse than I do!

    But seriously…looking at people’s reactions to my answer of their stupid question is rather entertaining! ??

    • Bree Hogan

      I love your attitude Christina. I think you handle these situations way better than me! I should probably start to do the improv thing more often, I just get so tired of answering those questions all the time that even the story/whopper-telling doesn’t give me a buzz. Gotta tap back into my creative whopper-telling side and have some fun with it! Xx

  • Nelo

    when I ride with my baby, she gets all the attention, all the coos and aaghs which is ok by me, other than that, its me, my phone and my destination

  • Cara

    Elevator rides in general are very awkward, I think. People’s nosiness sometimes kills me and I’m sure that gets really annoying, constantly being asked questions. My 3 year old wears glasses and has to patch one of his eyes (blindness runs in our family), and you wouldn’t believe the amount of blunt questions I get asked out and about all the time. It’s like really it’s none of your business. I mean if people were actually genuinely concerned, they would do it in a non-rude way.

    • Bree Hogan

      Exactly Cara! I love your last statement “If people were genuinely concerned they would do it in a non-rude way.” I would add to that by saying “And at an appropriate time/location.” Fling-away comments like the ones that I get in an elevator, when there is no time to actually really listen and engage with the other person, does not fit the brief. I am more than happy to talk about my condition and educate anyone who are genuinely interested, but it is all in the delivery.

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