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Birthday Lift
by J. Astra Brinkmann

Surprise Party Crew (L to R): J. Astra, Brittany, Malcolm, Shae

Much like the perfect prom night, anyone who has experienced a surprise birthday party is lying. But regardless of how much we want to be above such idealized expectations for such trite rites of passage, we still harbor some amount of hope that one day, someone will care enough and organize a surprise birthday party in our honor. Thus with streamers, noisemakers, posters, a camera and a cake, four residents of an art school dormitory assembled in the elevator to wish all passengers a happy birthday.


We parked the elevator in the basement while we set up the posters, tinsel, and streamers. A woman came down and had the following conversation with us:

WOMAN:  You guys should let people use the elevator.

ASTRA:  Yeah?

WOMAN: Yeah, people are going to get mad. Some of us need to do laundry and stuff.

ASTRA:  Okay.

Malcolm and I exchanged looks after the girl walked away, and relented to having only semi-extravagent decorations. We promptly took the elevator to the second floor, where the cake awaited us. I asked my friends to write Happy Birthday with heinous green frosting, but when they presented it to me, it looked like it said //||-/_\-|/. That was fine, really, because I think people got the message, what with the party hats, horn-blowings, and "Happy Birthday" plastered on the background walls.


We agreed to shout "Happy Birthday!" to all prospective elevator riders, even if we detected unwillingness on the recipient's part. Our first anonymous customer seemed neither terrified nor thrilled, just a little curious.

ELEVATOR:   Happy birthday!

MAN:  [startled] Why are you doing this?

ASTRA:   Because it's everyone's birthday today.

MAN: So it's not for anyone in particular?

MALCOLM:  No. We just wanted to wish you a happy birthday.

This seemed enough to satisfy him, and he got off at the third floor.


Someone who doesn't believe in birthdays


Although I feared that some people would be genuinely annoyed by our well-wishing, I only detected a handful of irked passengers, like the gentleman pictured to the left:

ELEVATOR:   Happy birthday!

MAN:  [annoyed] Oh…

BRITTANY:  Yeah, we're wishing everyone a happy birthday tonight.

ASTRA:  Would you like some cake?

MAN:  Wow. You guys are fff-weird.

We deduced that he was most likely going to call us freaks but settled on weird. We hope.


The initial plan for our shindig called for only a half hour of yelling and cake consumption, but two unforeseen factors encouraged us to extend the party.

First: insufficient amount of elevator traffic. I chose the time of 7:30 p.m. because I hoped it would be busy enough, but we had a lot of thumb-twiddling stretches of time when no one used the elevator.

Second: we did not account for the decadence of the cake (and lack of refrigerator space). As much as we, the organizers, enjoyed the cake, it quickly became too thick to eat after five bites. Since the cake cost an exorbitant $17.00 and would not keep at room temperature, we decided that the party would go until enough passengers had been properly exposed to the cake.


Overall, we surprised roughly forty people. At least a third of the riders were repeat offenders, either returning for cake, or just joining in on the mischief to shout "Happy Birthday!"

After an hour, we felt that we had sufficiently surprised enough people. Plus, the cake began to look swampy. Malcolm offered to take the left-overs to a friend, but he dropped swamp cake on the way out of the elevator.

Happy Deathday, Chocolate Cake.
May 3, 2008 – May 3, 2008


Issue #31: Part-time cynic. Full-time skeptic.
Issue #31