“Labby”

I’ve mentioned a few times that I work at the Habitat for Humanity affiliate in northern Los Angeles County. Click on that “search” button for that Category and you’ll see pictures from a number of our events over the past couple of years.

As of today our HFH affiliate merged with a sister non-profit and we’re now officially Homes4Families. In the big picture not a lot has changed – same employees, same jobs, same mission, same projects, same offices, and so on. But the merger allows us to take on projects outside of our local geographic area and expand in other ways to serve our mission of helping low-income veterans not just to own a home but to move up the social ladder into the middle class.

Needless to say, the months of work that have gone into this are one of the reasons that I’ve been just a teeny, tiny bit stressed and short of time recently. Also needless to say, today being the big day of the merger and contacting everyone and making sure that the transition went smoothly and doing a gazillion other things, today was “interesting.”

Which leads us to why I nearly had a public, hysterical meltdown over a computer voice in an elevator.

If you’ve hung around here, you’ve seen this view:

We’re in a twelve-story building on a property which also has a four-story building. That’s the four-story building just outside my window, across the central courtyard.

In our building is a reasonably fast elevator which announces what floor you’re on when the doors open. It’s a female, recorded, vaguely computer-generated-ish voice. “Sixth…….floor.” “Third……floor.” “Ground…..floor.”

Today toward the end of the day I needed to get something to the property management office, which is on the fourth floor of the other building. Seizing the opportunity to get up on my feet and away from my desk for a few blessed minutes, I decided to take it over myself.

Now, in almost two years of working there I’ve never actually had reason to go up into any of the upper floors of this shorter building. There’s a deli in the bottom floor that I go into and I’ve been in another office on the ground floor, but I’ve never used the elevator in that four-story building. Until today.

It’s sloooooooooooooooow. Not even an “I could have climbed the stairs faster” sort of slow. More of an “I could have gone and gotten climbing gear and scaled the outside of the building and that includes the time to go to the store and buy the climbing gear and taking a couple of lessons to learn how to use it” sort of slow.

Whatever. I notice that it’s got the same female voice when I get to the top. “Fourth……floor.” No biggie.

I do my business and get back on the elevator for the descent. This time I’m not alone. A woman from another office is on her way down.

Slooooooooooooooooooooooowly.

And we get to the bottom, the computer voice says, “Laaabbbbbbbyyyyy.”

I’m assuming it meant to say “Lobby,” but I was expecting “Ground……floor.” Worse, it said it in a bizarre and non-identifiable accent that made it sound like it was saying “Labby,” as it would rhyme with “tabby” or “flabby.”

It’s weird what will crack that thin and brittle veneer that we paste over the terror and chaos that we hold inside. I thought I was holding up pretty well with the events of the day. Until the elevator croaked out, “Laaabbbbbbbyyyyy.”

In retrospect, it’s a good thing the woman from the fourth floor was in the elevator with me. When I started to laugh with some borderline hysteria, she gave me a look, trying to decide if I was choking and needed the Heimlich Maneuver or if I was a lunatic and needed to be Maced. That helped me make it look like I had just coughed and make a quick recovery, slapping some metaphysical duct tape over that crack in my cool facade, sort of like Mark Watney putting tape over his cracked spacesuit helmet glass.

But tomorrow, or the next day, or whenever I’m stressed, I’m going to go ride that elevator again, just to hear that that machine say, “Laaabbbbbbbyyyyy.”

I’ve earned it.

(Welcome to Homes4Families. We’re gonna be awesome, by the way!)

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