Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Decorum of Vestibules

On my impatient way to a friend’s apartment, carrying wine and unprepared Brie, I spotted that bizarre antechamber up ahead—the room called the vestibule. It has always made me squirm. There is perhaps no room in existence—not upper class dining rooms, tea sunrooms, public unisexual restrooms, lesbian-gym locker rooms, communal fitting rooms, or even my ex-boyfriend’s rubber sex room—whose proper etiquette confuses me more; and I would bet, the general public.

Pray tell, when an unfortunate subject walks up to the apartment building of a friend—and, therefore, an apartment building to which she has no key—and rings the relative room buzzer in order for said friend to let her in, what is the appropriate action to take when a stranger from outside enters the vestibule at that exact instant the friend greets and buzzes her guest in?

You know the moment: you don’t know the person who’s just walked in, and so the thought enters your mind that, using your better judgment, you shouldn’t let him in the secured edifice (that is, after all, why these greet-and-buzz procedures have been set into place). So suppose, just as he reaches for the door handle as your hand leaves it, you grab it again and slam the door shut in his now perplexed face?

But suppose things aren’t this easy. Suppose as you “slam” the door shut, a small tug-of-doorknob ensues, creating a most awkward moment between you and the most probable tenant.

Eventually I won the struggle and closed the door.

But seconds later he let himself in and jaunted up the hall, waiting with me for the elevator (currently visiting floor 37, ugh). Oh yes, this was awkward. I had just forcefully shut a door—a door to his own apartment building—in this man’s face, after a near turf war, and now I had to wait next to him, speechless, for four dreadfully silent minutes. I could feel him holding back the laughter.

He never said a word, but the air between us was palpable. I didn’t care. I was on my way to a wine and cheese gathering with my New York friends. I seized my BlackBerry, the only companion I had at the time, and feigned engagement, knowing that only moments later I would be telling a story about an inconsiderate man in the hall who tried to force his way into the building, and how I (fortunate tenants) subdued his attempt.

As the slowest elevator in Manhattan alighted from its clearly creaky shaft, we stepped on. The ride up to the 27th was just as uncomfortable. Surprisingly, we both stepped out on the same floor; I stopped at my friend’s door, and the tenant continued on, to 27-J.

When I entered, all was forgotten. I was greeted by my fellow socialites, one of whom, already enjoying the festivities, took it upon herself after examining my tensed forehead to bring me my first glass of grigio.

After about fifteen minutes of salutations, and after telling several versions of my lobby experience to the guests, the host quieted us for a lovely toast—after which she made the following, horrifying, announcement: “And I can’t wait for all of you to meet my new boyfriend, Jake. He’s already late and he only lives in 27-J!”

If I hadn’t forgotten to pack my emergency Manhattan-skyscraper parachute, that balcony would have looked mighty tempting.

Oh, if I’d only let him in….


posted by A Little Boyish @ 3/03/2007 10:18:00 AM |


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