By Tom C. Zumbado
20 geographers crammed into an elevator.

Sounds way too sitcom, right? But that was the situation at this year's Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, California. It seems that the hotel elevators had a penchant for crowding during the lunch hours.

My colleague and I were joyriding (yeah, I said it) in between sessions when, at the top floor, an elevator opened up to reveal a throng of stuffy professor-types, eager to get to the lobby and on with their lives. 
We hopped on to save us a long trip down the stairwell. What we didn't know was that the exterior elevator, hot from the sun, would be traveling towards the lobby and making stops AT EVERY FLOOR.

Oh, it was polite at first. Folks would get on at every floor, complaining that they had been waiting for over 20 minutes. We'd nod in agreement at the folly of it all and travel down another story. 

But by the 23rd floor, things started getting ornery.

"This is ludicrous."
"My feet hurt."
"It's hot."
*HUFF* “I can't take this anymore."

It was wild to see 20 "geo" hissy-fits firing off at the same time. Some in quiet frustration, others in supercilious and well-worded outrage.

I’d have never guessed it, but Geographers can be a cranky bunch. And by floor 18, folks started turning on the prospective passengers hoping to get onto the elevator.

"Sorry buddy, no room."
"Yeah, you can't get in here."
"Welcome to L.A., baby!"
"Take the stairs. I've heard they're lovely."
"Walk off that cheeseburger; it'll do you good."

At one point, folks went as far as to line up shoulder-to-shoulder so would-be riders were greeted to a wall of backs when the door opened. Rude? Sure. But really, REALLY funny.

When the elevator reached the lobby, I'm sure we poured out of the doors like clowns out of a Volkswagen. The misadventure was over. Everyone took a few seconds to collect themselves, share an awkward smile and we all returned to the conference veneer of the beautiful Bonaventure like it never happened.

But I know better.

For a few minutes, these geographers got "Maslowed" into the lower tiers and showed their (albeit grumpier) human side. 20 ships that passed in the night, never to see each other or remember their trip in the elevator again. 

But I will. And in my mind, we'll always have LA.


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