“Nyetovshchik,” by Dale Stromberg

Dec 29th, 2021 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

To every question, I answer, “No.” Why? Because I hate to be wrong.

As I imagine you know, there’s a protocol for getting into an elevator.

The first to board occupies one corner. Probably a front corner—that’s where the buttons are.

The second takes the other front corner.

The third will take one of the rear corners. Which they take isn’t prescribed, but often, to distance themself as much as possible from the second rider, they will take the corner behind the first.

The fourth takes the only remaining unoccupied corner. Viewed from above, the riders’ positions resemble the dots on the ‘4’ face of a die.

A fifth rider will have no choice but to stand in the middle, becoming the center dot on the ‘5’ face of the die. If even more people board, the clean symmetry is wrecked and the elevator becomes merely crowded.

No one ever sat me down and said, “Look, son, here’s how you board an elevator.” Yet I do it too. Do you? It wouldn’t surprise me if you did.

I suppose it’s natural you’d not want to stand near me, nor I near you.


Dale Stromberg lives and writes in Malaysia, producing work that hipsters will someday prefer to his later, more successful output.

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