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A Brief on the Meaning of Life

Most writers are familiar with the term “elevator pitch.” Serendipitously trapped in the shiny little box with your quarry (whether she/he be a producer, editor, agent, or another writer), in the 30+ seconds it takes for the doors to close and the elevator to rise or fall the appropriate number of floors, you must succinctly pitch your story in such a manner, with such language, such incandescence, such effulgence, that said producer/editor/agent/writer will be irresistibly compelled to throw their collective arms around you and shout, “Yes! Yes! I will read your proposal!”

In reality, the person of the hour is usually sitting behind a desk when they ask for your best elevator pitch (i.e., convince me your story is good but please, God, don’t take any of my time). Actually, I literally made a successful elevator pitch once, many years ago. It was all too funny to me that I boarded an elevator with exactly the man (a well-known author) I had been trying to corner all day. Elevator pitch, I thought feverishly. I quickly told him all about my new memoir and convinced him (in the same way I convince my 60-lb hound dog to finally follow me when I tug a third time on his choke collar) to read my manuscript and send me a blurb if he liked it. He did. Of course, it helped that my sister had invited him to give a presentation that day.

Recently, I was busy worrying about how I was going to get my next new book published when my friend John told me about an experience he’d had in an elevator just a few days prior. I couldn’t help but think: This is the best elevator pitch I’ve ever heard.

John, a union electrician, was feeling kind of grumpy. He was having trouble with something on the job and he hadn’t decided what to do about it. He caught the elevator atop the high rise in which he was working and started going down. After a few floors, the elevator stopped and an old Jamaican man shuffled on.

“Hello, good morning,” said John, trying to be polite. John says the man must have noticed his long face, because he replied, “How are you doing today?”

“Oh, you know,” said John, rattling off his usual philosophy, “taking it as it comes, one day at a time.”

“You know, that’s right,” said the old man. “You got to live in the clock. Not outside the clock. You got to live inside the clock. Not before the time, cause that’s gone. And not ahead of time, cause that’s never coming. You got to live in the clock, right now.” The man lifted his two hands in front of him, slightly cupped, as if he were holding the right now.

John’s jaw went a little slack. He managed to nod.

The elevator dinged and the doors opened. The old Jamaican man got off. “Well,” he said, “so long. Have a good day.”

As the doors slid shut between them, John had the sudden urge to pry them open again and rush out to see if the old man was still there. “I swear to you,” said John, “I felt like I was in a movie. I am sure that if I had run out on that floor, that old man would have vanished.”

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