Mrs. Pettersen, In the Elevator, With Guy Thornton

Like our old board game, Clue, this story has been stashed away for many years.  I’ve picked over the memory from time to time. Shared it with a few friends. But with Clarence’s Brandon University reunion happening this weekend, I’m ready to take it out of the closet and hold it up to the light of day. Is it shameful? Not really. Foolish? Perhaps.

Please, join me on my walk down memory lane. And I hope you learn from my mistakes. Like always looking before you leap into the elevator. Or at the very least, take heed of the Georgia Satellites song title, ‘Keep your hands to yourself.’ Wise words.

We got married in our last year of university. A few weeks after the wedding we left our tiny attic suite and drove over to McMaster Hall for a visit. I greeted my friends as if I’d been gone for a year. Hours later I waved goodbye to everyone and followed my husband into the elevator. I felt bathed in happiness. My life was perfect.  We’d be finished school in a few months, then apply for teaching jobs and spend the rest of our lives together in blissful harmony.

Since we were alone, I scooted backward, pressing myself against my sweet husband. Feeling a little playful, I reached behind me and… Well. You know. But as I peeked upwards with a cheeky grin, my eyes met those of a complete stranger. It was not Clarence. It was a fellow by the name of Guy Thornton. Yes, that’s his real name.  And though he lived in my residence, I had never met him before this intimate and mistaken occasion. In that moment I felt like the worst version of myself; the one who wiped out crowds of skiiers on the bunny slope. The one who went right instead of left and fell off the stage during a ballet recital. But those occasions were merely humiliating. This was embarrassment on a whole new level. As if embarrassment had decided to smoke crack and reinvent itself.

“Oh my God,” I said, clasping my hands together like a Victorian maiden in full retreat. “I thought you were my husband!” His reply may not be exactly as follows, but the meaning was clear.

‘Uh huh.’

“No, really. I thought you were Clarence. Why are you wearing the same pants and sweater?” I asked this in all sincerity. He ignored my sputtered words, continuing to smile down at me in a rather heartless manner.

“Sure,” he said, mockingly drawing out the single syllable. Was he teasing? I had no idea, but he seemed to be hinting that I’d planned the whole thing. Which made me wonder if the problem was my reputation or his ego.

The elevator doors opened then, and I fled to the lobby area where I found Clarence waiting.

“Where were you?” He looked puzzled  and irritated. I remember that part very clearly.

“I…. I… I…” I decided to lie. Well, not really. “I got on the wrong elevator,” I said. Part of me felt extremely embarrassed and remorseful. The other part, the one that insists on writing this blog, was having a good laugh at my own expense. I never told Clarence about what happened for at least ten years.

“We invited him to our wedding!” he said in response to my belated tale, not appreciating the humour of the situation. As if the invitation made my behavior even sketchier. “How did you get on the wrong elevator?”

“I backed in and he was wearing the exact same pants and sweater as you. I don’t think he believed me when I said it was an accident.” Clarence didn’t want to discuss it. So we put it behind us like it never happened. But it did, and I longed to restate my case in a calm and convincing manner.

I’ve had no opportunity to say this on national television. The breakfast shows where I’ve appeared on behalf of the babyTrekker just weren’t the right venue. So  let me state here and now, almost forty years after the fact, that I truly didn’t know it was you, Guy Thornton. And that’s the truth. I also need to thank you. Because you might have been heartless and disbelieving, but at least you weren’t creepy. So thanks for that. And happy reunion. Whew! I feel so much better.

Published by Judith Pettersen

Judith Pettersen is an author living in Canada. She blogs about her life in the north and the ups and downs of being a writer.

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