The following story is 100% true. It features terror in a New York City elevator and a mega-celebrity. And just maybe (hopefully!) it'll make you second-guess your preconceptions.
New York City, 2005
The Reluctant Wife
My friend's mom, who we'll call Mrs. Heidi, did not want to join her husband on his business trip to New York City. Mrs. Heidi is a homebody who had never ventured far from her to-remain-nameless homeland of watches, chocolate, and cheese. She had heard all about the dangers of The Big Apple in the news and preferred to avoid becoming a victim herself. Her home was perfectly comfortable, so why risk leaving it?
Well, because of her husband. He was tired of always traveling alone and knew she'd have a great time if she came. So finally, after much pleading and with the promise of a deluxe hotel, delicious food, and plenty of culture, Mrs. Heidi caved in and agreed to join her husband on his trip to New York.
It was a decision she would later regret immensely.
A Change in Plans
Everything went exactly as planned. While Mrs. Heidi didn't risk venturing out on her own—she stayed in her room until her husband was done work—when they went out together she had a blast. She was glad she came... until the very last night.
To celebrate their final evening in NYC, Mrs. Heidi's husband had scored exclusive tickets to the most sought-after Broadway show. Unfortunately, his last meeting of the afternoon ran late. There was no way he could pick up Mrs. Heidi at the hotel and make it to the show in time. They would have to rendezvous there. This meant Mrs. Heidi would have to risk life and limb to get there on her own. But these tickets were so precious that even Mrs. Heidi thought it was worth the risk.
Or so she thought.
Terror in the Elevator
Having steeled her nerves and double-checked through the peephole that the coast was clear in the hallway, Mrs. Heidi emerged all alone from her room. She hurried to the elevators and was relieved to have one arrive immediately. Even better, it was empty. What luck! She pressed G and began descending to the taxi her husband had called for her.
That's when Mrs. Heidi's luck ran out.
The elevator stopped before making it to the lobby.
The doors opened...
And in walked two black men dressed "like rappers".
Miss Heidi was beyond terrified. They looked exactly like the criminals she'd seen on TV, and their severe expressions indicated they had clearly come to mug her. Or worse! And she was trapped an elevator.
Reacting on pure adrenaline Mrs. Heidi curled into the corner of the elevator, closed her eyes, covered her head with one arm, and with the other held out her purse. She begged for them to take it but to have mercy on her.
She heard some whispers but no movement. Nor did she feel any pull on her purse. The elevator doors opened and closed, but she didn't dare move. Only minutes (seemingly hours) later did she summon the nerve to open her eyes. To her immense relief, the elevator was empty. Somehow Mrs. Heidi had escaped unscathed. Amazingly nothing was even missing from her purse.
Heroically, Mrs. Heidi even made it to the show.
An Unanticipated Surprise
The next morning was time to check out. When the husband presented his credit card to the receptionist, he didn't take it. Instead, he said, "That's not necessary sir. Someone has already taken care of your bill."
That made no sense to Mrs. Heidi's husband. He said, "Are you sure?"
"Yes," replied the receptionist, "I couldn't be more certain. In fact I was asked to pass on a sincere 'Thank you' to your wife. The person who paid for your room, Mr. Eddie Murphy, said it had been years since he had laughed so hard. He said paying for your room was the least he could do."
Are You Terrified of Eddie Murphy?
This story is funny. You can laugh with Mrs. Heidi, but don't laugh at her. You're no different.
Mrs. Heidi is well educated, kind, and generous. If you were lucky enough to stop by her home, she would warmly welcome you in and whip you up some spaetzli and Ovalmatine. She only reacted the way she did because a lifetime of seeing a skewed reality in her local media had conditioned her to do so.
Ask yourself this: How is Mrs. Heidi's reaction different from you losing your appetite when someone puts a plate of perfectly healthy and tasty food like bugs in front of you?
Just as we may laugh at Mrs. Heidi, people from Northeastern Thailand may just as well laugh at you for getting squeamish about eating their bug-based food.
We could all benefit from having more open minds.
Hopefully Mrs. Heidi learned this through her elevator experience. And, hopefully it can be a lesson to you too. Next time you're faced with something that makes you feel irrationally uncomfortable, just think of Eddie Murphy.