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The Dignitary’s Shiny Elevator

The Dignitary’s Shiny Elevator

Al-Qabas, Kuwait, June 2

The rich man put his right foot on the shoebox, opened the Wall Street Journal, and went through that morning’s headlines, while the shoeshine boy got to work. It was a beautiful morning in New York, not far from the stock exchange, which was in its prime. While the man was reading, the boy asked him how much the price of a particular stock might go up. The rich man was dumbfounded by the question, as he didn’t expect the boy to understand anything about stocks, let alone own shares himself. When he returned to his office, he asked his agent to liquidate his portfolio. “When someone as clueless as a shoeshine boy invests in the market,” he said, “that’s a sign that the market is going to collapse.” This story is hypothetical, of course, but it’s emblematic of what is happening in many parts of our society. Forty years ago, I entered a bank building, and found a long queue waiting for two crammed elevators. Curiously, a third elevator stood idle and empty on the side. It was reserved for the chairman of the board of directors, who uses it for approximately five minutes a day. After I finished my transaction and returned to my office, I sent a letter to the bank and asked to immediately close my account. A bank whose boss behaves in such a way doesn’t deserve to have customers. Yesterday, I entered an important government building, and came across a scene that brought me back to my experience at the bank: The building’s lobby had four elevators, one of which was dedicated for the director general of the department. It had a red carpet leading to it and seemed to be in pristine condition. As I approached it to take a look, a security guard asked me to take a step back. Even from a distance, I could see the fancy mirror walls and smell the scent of fresh incense coming out of it. The fact that our society allows for these kinds of habits to take place is appalling. Will the director general of the ministry I visited remain a dignitary forever? Surely, his assignment will end one day, and he will return to his old habit of taking elevators just like anyone else. He will have to part ways with his red carpet and shiny crystals and, instead, stand shoulder to shoulder with others in a tight elevator. It is up to us as citizens, customers and employees to stand up to this kind of behavior. There is no reason for dozens of people to stand in a line and fight over spots in two elevators while a third one sits empty. There is no excuse to treat government officials and senior executives this way. They aren’t holy or divine. And we shouldn’t allow them to create a caste system where some humans are worth more than others. If a dignitary is rushing to a meeting, his or her aides can easily walk ahead and order the elevator. And if all else fails, God forbid, they can share their few-minutes-long ride together with others, too. – Ahmed Al-Sarraf (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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