Elevator Princess was an impromptu status I acquired in 2014. How did it happen again? I recount the tale of Thursday 21 August, 2014.
Dear Diary, I stood in front of the elevator exhausted.
Oh Jesus, please let me get to my room. Tóyọ̀ needs some sleep. I can’t stand this any longer. I was muttering words of request to God to take me to my bed. In my mind, I thought the trip was for me to enjoy. All I got was constant mental exhaustion and zero desire to do anything else, but sleep.
Why am I so sad? I was happy to come to Louisiana to learn. Still, erm, the organisers of the 10-days workshop must have been the apprentice to the four angels the Bible spoke about in the book of Revelation chapter 7. They kept us busy, in and out of their faces, overruling all hopes to explore the city or to be happy.
Our time was maximally utilised with intolerable exercises, and I hated all of it. I also hated the fact that I needed God’s grace to leave my bed in the morning and his grace to make it to my bed at night without sleeping off in the elevator. Which kind life be this, God? Although I loved what I was learning, I hated all of them for how miserable I felt.
I was busy fighting my inner battle as I patiently waited for the elevator. A family of four joined me as I stood, but for some odd reason, the elevator was taking forever. So I slouched, leaned and couldn’t hide the discomfort of carrying my handbag and workshop folder. I had no more strength in me as I fought the sleep that descended upon my soul.
I noticed the family of four stood at a distance. At first, it was nothing to worry about. The elevator arrived, and I was the first to step in. I found a comfortable corner as I was still going to the 13th floor. I didn’t want any person or their children inconveniencing my exhausted state. The family of four didn’t join me. I thought it was my mind.
The elevator door closed and because I wasn’t thinking, I didn’t press the number to the floor of my hotel room. I waited for them to hit the button for the elevator door to open so they can come in, but it didn’t. So, I did it for them, just for the sake of humanity. The elevator door opened, but they stood there like Ere Idumota.
I still didn’t get the big picture. The unapologetic manner with which the family of four stood outside the elevator spoke volume. Like, when I am tired, I will be on my way up alone. After all, we didn’t come to Tulane together, I kuku let the door close.
But the young mother said something very kind to her child, and I heard that lovely disgusting voice say “we are not joining the black girl”.
Eledumare, ema gbami ke!
All the screw in my head left their composure spot. This time the elevator door closed. I pressed the number to my floor, I felt deeply hurt. So, they chose not to enter because I am black or what? Since the other elevator was not in use because of the cleaning sign in front of it, I decided to waste all of our time. After all, I didn’t join Amie for the bloody hangout, na sleep I wan go sleep. I can as well start the sleep in the elevator.
The elevator door opened a third time, and as the family of four tried to step in, they saw me again and withdrew. Gbam! I got the most compelling evidence that we had a “black and white race issue”. I forgave the first, ignored the second, but this third time was proof that wehrey lawon eleyi, a de ma shey wehrey fun ara wa!
While a couple of others joined me and dropped off on their different floors, but not from the ground floor, this didn’t make me feel any better. I was determined to do something about it. What it was that disturbed me, I couldn’t figure it out just yet. I touched my head and said Tóyọ̀ pele!
This time, it was my fourth trip back and forth from the zenith of the hotel and again to the ground floor. It seemed even weirder that no one else joined me from the ground floor, other than this stubborn family that gave me the leverage to be a nuisance and think of payback.
How I had to win this damn war for the entire Black race and purge the innocent children out of this unjust mental state was my utmost concern.
Four times I went up and down; four times they didn’t enter the elevator. I just spread myself inside the lift like butter on bread.
On my 5th and relentless trip, as I got to the ground floor, I saw the management team. My workshop folder fell from my hand at the right time. The guy that looked like the head of the management team stepped into the elevator to help me get my scattered papers. He deliberately picked the folder first and saw the University of Tulane; I let him pick up the rest and stood without slouching.
In my opinion, I believe she called management on me. This wasn’t one of those other hotels where reckless shit happens, but it was a five-star hotel, and my friend and I had reserved one of the best parts due to late registration. So, management had to be very nice and very careful to decipher the situation.
In the meantime, another of the management team who recognised me from five days ago stepped into the elevator. The biggest mistake that day for the family of four was that they finally entered the elevator with me still in it.
The first guy broke the ice and asked if I was lost or didn’t know how to operate the lift. I felt offended, but somehow, I became the elevator princess. I countered that “I am Oghomwenyemwen, the descendant of Ovonramwen Nogbaisi, the rising sun which spreads over all. My Father, the King of the Benin Kingdom, is the wealthiest monarch in Nigeria. No one dares to ride with me or share my oxygen space, but I came to the US for a change. They were all staring at me, and the little girl caught the word princess. I rolled my eyes, knowing I was just the elevator princess.
I quickly added that I don’t see why I should be treated as the god that I am because this isn’t Nigeria, but the United States. It felt nice to be the elevator princess. In my head, I’m like Tóyọ̀ nibo loti ri script yi?
With this twist of fate, I asked if they would rather have me operate the elevator as touching those buttons excites me, and I have done it five times this evening.
I would have heard a pin drop if it did.
Emi, omo Benin, the elevator princess, ee ti rin kan kan!
It took all the will-power in the world for me not to choke on my laughter. My heavily beaded ankara dress with swarovski stones made that title sound convincing. I asked the woman what floor was her’s? She said 10th floor. Iyalaya anybody, you won’t answer ke! Ma ku!
I moved my hands to the number 10 button and the daughter from the family of four stretched to touch my wrist. I made it look like an accident and asked her if she wanted the glittery coral beaded wrist-charm work. Her blue eyes glowed. I gave it to her with a little tap on her chin, maintaining eye contact.
She was so happy admiring the beads which even glowed better on her wrist because of her pale white skin. She asked me to pronounce my name again, I did with style (even though I was saying nonsense) and I thanked the guy still holding my folder stating that it was more weight than I could carry.
The family of four got to their drop-off floor, which was before mine, and I quickly gave an instruction for the second management guy to hold the lift. In that instance, I swung into action and dished out another speech, which was like a vote of thanks.
I said it was kind of them to have treated me like I would, and not some King’s daughter. The daughter thanked me for the wrist souvenir. I told her, her blue eyes will bring her good luck. I didn’t even know the shit I was talking about, I sha hit my target well. We all can be ROYALS in our own right.
The girl’s blue eyeballs almost popped out from joy. I settled back into my bread and butter spot. As soon as the door closed, the head management guy apologised to me that they didn’t know I was royalty. They were sorry for the mix-up. In my mind, I was like, hmmm ‘Tóyọ̀ – the elevator princess.
I gave an elegant smirking smile with no response. Got to my drop-off floor, collected my folder and waved the management guys goodbye like Queen Elizabeth, the 1st of her name.
I waited for the elevator door to close and I was like Tóyọ̀ kini gbo gbo rada rada toh shey sor nisin?
I started to laugh like a crazy woman, and I hissed with the thought of Shey e ni ori gbogbo yin ti daru ni, me sef, I full ground.
For previous posts see http://oluwatoyosiabikoye.com/index.php/2020/08/16/toyosi-abikoye-kids-foodbank/