The doors of the elevator would open, and guess who would walk in? An actor, a musician, or a game show host, perhaps. It would be someone familiar looking, but I could never place the name quickly. I'd stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him or her for all of 10 seconds, perhaps exchanging a smile or a pleasantry. Then the doors would slide open at the lobby and we'd walk out. I would hit the sidewalk before I'd realize who my fellow passenger had been.
For five years I worked in the same Midtown New York building as an accounting firm that specialized in crunching numbers for creative types. Each day - especially during spring tax season - the elevator became a revolving door of familiar faces. Even celebrities must tip their hat to the Internal Revenue Service. One week, I shared the elevator with rapper Coolio, who sported a bright-orange jumpsuit and braids that stood up from his head and grazed the ceiling. Actress Mia Farrow was my companion for 11 floors once. It took all my self control to avoid asking her about Woody Allen.
It was as reliable a sign as the first birds of spring. I knew it was time to dial my own accountant when my elevator companions looked like the cover of Entertainment Weekly.
My favorite brush-with-fame moment was with a particular Broadway star. Pondering my lunch options, I barely noticed who had entered the elevator. His cheery greeting caught me off guard.
"Well hello there - how are you doing today!" the man said. It was not a question, more of a spirited exclamation. I looked across and saw sparkling brown eyes - the eyes of an entertainer. This man was accustomed to amusing crowds. I was just an audience of one, but he was still ready to entertain, at least for the duration of the elevator ride. I couldn't place his face at first, but the word "dancer" entered my head.
"I'm fine," I replied politely. "How are you?"
"Just fine?" He asked brightly, the words booming to the corners of the elevator. "It's a beautiful spring day out there. I'm doing spec-tacular," he said, enunciating the word into two and grinning widely. I felt the corners of my mouth pull into a grin as he continued: "I hope you're spec-tacular, too."
I assured him that I was indeed, and then the elevator doors opened. As he bounced across the marble lobby, I realized who it was: Ben Vereen. He disappeared through the revolving doors out into the sunlit city. I was still smiling. Spec-tacular.
Interactions like this are rare, of course. Most people keep their eyes fixed on the elevator numbers and avoid making eye contact or speaking with others in such close quarters.
In this way, perhaps the rich and famous are not so different from you and me.