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Always Take The Elevator

3 min read

Back in 2019 I interned at the United Nations as a rep for USU when they had their climate conference in Salt Lake City. After one of the days meetings all the attendees were invited to a multimedia performance at the nearby theater and I took an old friend who was in town as my date. The performance was really weird but definitely interesting to watch (and make fun of). At the end I asked my date if she wanted to check out the view from the top floor of the building (since both of us were originally from Seattle). We get into an elevator going up when we realize everyone was like $$$RICH$$$. Like they all smelled like money. Fancy hats for the ladies, custom suits, ties that cost more than my entire outfit. I whisper to my date, "just go along with whatever happens next." The elevator doors open up and there's two Russian-looking bodyguard types right there, clearly meant to block anyone from getting out. In thick accents they ask everyone, "Are you here for the party?" to which my date and I meekly respond in the affirmative like everyone else around us.

We get escorted into a room that's right next to the balconies that look over the city (our original destination). From the looks of it, it's one of those private reception rooms that they tuck away for VIPs which is confirmed by the massive spread of fancy meats and expensive cheeses (and to my date's delight, an open bar). We split up grab food and drinks and settle in at a table with a nice old family. We start talking, turns out they're old money. Oil money, from Iran. My date and I easily charm them and tell them I'm Pacific Island chief spending time with one his wives. We're joined by more of our new friends' family members: an dancer, a factory owner, an artist. The atmosphere REEKS of culture.

The cute Iranian couple keeps introducing to other people and despite all of our charm it feels like we're only moments away from getting unmasked as interlopers. A construction exec from Florida is asking a lot of questions about our fictional pacific tribal family and the other wives when everyone just starts clapping. In walks a 30 deep entourage, more bodyguards, publicists, agents, performers (still in costume), socialites and the man himself. He strides in, arm in arm with his wife, her blushing and expressing gratitude and him beaming so proudly. Turns out that the psychedelic light show that night was her production and that Robert had also lent his voice for narration. All the rich people in the room are just as starstruck as my date and I, with the exception of our Iranian couple. "We're close friends with Robert, we see him all the time," they laugh.

My date and I queue up behind others and get pictures with Robert while his wife plays hosts mingling with the various cliques in the room. I stutter as I tell him the people of my country enjoy his films and he just smiles, looking like he could be anyone's grandfather. We say our goodbyes to our new friends, check out the balcony that we originally wanted to see, and book it before anyone could bust us. And that's why I always take elevators.