So the question is, who is the last person on earth that I would want to be stuck with in an elevator, and why?
While several specific people come to mind, she of the bathing suit at the Y, for one, I will instead write about a type of person, rather than a specific one.
I would abhor being stuck in an elevator with someone who doesn’t read. Not quite as bad, but still bad, is someone who only reads self-help books. But mostly, I would find it difficult to spend time with anyone who doesn’t read to expand their horizons.
I know that there are those people who don’t read fiction, not wanting to waste their time on anything that “isn’t real,” while there are others who read only fiction, not wanting to waste their time on biographies or history. But give me a person who reads, and I’m sure to find something to talk about with that person. Even if it isn’t something about which I am particularly interested, I know I will learn something in the time we speak. Recently, at jury duty, I made a point to try to meet the other eleven people in the jury. I spoke with a recent college graduate who answered my queries shyly at first, and then with greater animation, as he told me of his desire to go into speech therapy analysis and the reading he has been doing on the subject; an older gentleman who had been with the CIA before becoming a master chef in New York, before becoming a dealer in fine jewels, selling to the original founders of the great jewelry stores such as Tiffany’s; a woman who is a “WWII orphan,” one among several hundred thousand of such children who lost their fathers in the Second World War, and who now writes about the research being done to link these orphans with the stories of their fathers’ war experiences; and a man whose hero was Sandy Koufax, and who knew every detail about Koufax’s life; and several others.
The point is, I found something to speak about with each of these people because they were interested in life beyond their own noses, and each turned out to be a voracious reader. Once we found we had that in common, the rest was a walk in the park. They knew about the world beyond their limited experience and they sought to know more through books.
I have neighbors who do not read. While they are nice people, I find I have little to speak about with them. They have opinions set in stone, circumscribed views on the world around them, and no interest in the lives of others who differ from them. They are like a cousin of mine who proudly declares, “Europe has nothing to offer me. Why would I ever travel there?”