Thursday, July 20, 2006

Living in a Box

I have spent most of my life living in houses. In Ghana the houses were very spacious with huge yards to run around in and trees to climb. When we moved to Indo it took a while to get used to the houses there that were a bit more constricted with houses pressed against both sides of it and sometimes the only exposed surfaces of the house were the roof and front. It was not until I went to college that I actually experienced living in an apartment.

I had hardly ever even ridden in an elevator until then. Probably the only exposure I had to buildings and elevators was when I was staying at hotels while on holiday. Elevators have always been a trip for me. It is so weird when 6 individuals are forced to stand in such close proximity in a confined space with each other. We suddenly become, AWARE. We are conscious of every movement and expression we make like we are under a microscope. Some people just watch the numbers tick by on the indicator above the door while others simply stare at their feet. It is common for people to have a full blown conversation in an elevator although it does happen.

I am currently residing on the 28 floor of a 31 storey building. The elevators are slow as hell and I am forced to spend at least 20 minutes a day riding up or down that damn elevator. I figure it to be that much because I do not smoke in the apartment so I am shuttling down every 2 hours at least. When I rode elevators in college I would do strange things to break the monotony and freak straight folks out like stand in the corner with my head pressed against the wall mumbling, god save me please, in a teary voice. Sometimes I would beat box or sing some outlandish Hindi song. I did not really have an image to protect and I got a kick out of peoples reactions. Now I still feel the urge to be all loony but reality seems to have tamed me.

Kids are the best though. They are just not self conscious at all. I was watching 2 kids yesterday in the elevator, one was about 4 and a half or 5 years old, the other seemed around 9 or 10. They were heading down to the pool and the younger one was talking non stop about this band-aid she had on her leg and how it was going to come off and get lost in the pool once she went swimming. The older one was obviously embarrassed and she kept trying to shut the kid up and even resorted to putting her hand over the child’s mouth. This just aggravated the young girl and she was not shy to tell the older one off. Like really loudly in the middle of the elevator. I could see that chick wanted the ground to just open up and swallow her.

This made me think. It is kind of fucked up when you realize how living in a close quartered society has forced us to suppress our raw emotions, and in some cases even our ideas. If at such a young age we are already so conscious of the people around us then that some how shapes the people we have grown up to become or will grow up to be. The elevator was full of strangers. None of us knew the other from Joe, but yet this young thing was trying to protect her dignity or avoid shame in some form. What the hell is there to be ashamed about with honesty? Had they been alone in that elevator I am positive the incident would have gone down in a totally different way.

Like I said, I have been used to having my own space. Living alone with my parents growing up, I have always had my own room and sometimes even my own level of a house, and I enjoyed it. Some people may regard that as me being spoilt but we were just living in places where that kind of space was affordable. Apartments in Ghana and Indo cost way more to rent than any house. Maybe in some way that upbringing has allowed me to be as liberated or free spirited as I am.

When I got to college and lived in an apartment, there were many things I had to get used to. I had never used a washing machine before and I had never even seen a dishwasher in real life. I had my ups and downs with those appliances. I once used ordinary dish washing liquid in the dish washing machine and set of a little foam party for one in my kitchen. But you live and learn. As for the space issues, I almost always had my own room and when I did not, I was too strung out to care less. Four people in a studio apartment and you can not imagine what that bathroom was like.

Now I am living in an apartment once again. A spacious 3 bedroom with sprawling views but I just can’t dig it. I fell claustrophobic just knowing that that are people living, eating, breathing, shitting, and pissing above me, below me, beside me, and in front of me. There are people everywhere! I look out the window and I see more apartments. I can see their living rooms and I know they can see mine. It’s like we are stored in boxes and stacked one on top of the other to save space. There is no damn space! In college it was okay because I could only afford so much furniture and groceries even. But now I do not even know where to keep my books. And everywhere I go there are people. In the apartment, outside the apartment, and in the dreaded elevator. The only place I can really get a break is in the stairwell and I can’t even enjoy a smoke there because the place smells like fucking garbage. (This picture is the actual view from my room)

That being said, if I lived such a thick urban environment for a prolonged period of time I would loose my fucking mind. I would have to pierce my face and platform shoes just to feel human. But at the moment I am comfortable with my balance. Between Jakarta, Guangzhou, and Bali I should be able to maintain sanity.


Anonymous said...


might i mention the art of toozing in elevators... a form of rebellion from box-life


the wacky crazy faces, dances, exclamations, singing etc... we do while we are alone in elevators before the doors open up... quite therapeutic i might add. (dude i just pictured you doing some funky breakdance to yourself as you ride the elevator alone and just as the door begins to open for people you quickly fix yourself up as if you were just standing there idle the whole time... you must be getting lots of elevator therapy on your ciggie breaks :)

surri said...

great post.....yeah must feel like 'the truman show' right...i feel you dude....keep em comin....

Avi said...

dont ask how i got into this comment box. and rishi, as i was reading your comment i was picturing you doing the same!! and ro would be in the lift doing his sound effects.. m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m.. dish dush dish. you know what i mean.

Avi said...

were there any comments on my dream on amits dream blog? can someone email them to me please.