Break the Chain Hit the Floor

Created 2/19/2001 (2/19/2001) Urban legends often serve as cautionary tales designed to teach us the pitfalls of sundry social improprieties. The lesson in this tale is that making pre-judgments about a person's intentions based on racial stereotypes will only end up embarrassing you.


Subject: Hit The Floor For anyone who didn't see David Letterman's take on this:(And it's a true story...)

On a recent weekend in Atlantic City, a woman won a bucketful of quarters at a slot machine. She took a break from the slots for dinner with her husband in the hotel dining room. But first she wanted to stash the quarters in her room. "I'll be right back and we'll go to eat,"she told her husband and carried the coin-laden bucket to the elevator. As she was about to walk into the elevator she noticed two men already board. Both were black. One of them was tall...very intimidating figure.

The woman froze. Her first thought was: These two are going to rob me. Her next thought was: Don't be a bigot, they look like perfectly nice gentlemen. But racial stereotypes are powerful, and fear immobilized her. She stood and stared a the two men. She felt anxious, flustered and ashamed. She hoped they didn't read her mind but Gosh, they had to know what she was thinking!!!

Her hesitation about joining them in the elevator was all too obvious now. Her face was flushed. She couldn't just stand there, so with a mighty effort of will she picked up one foot and stepped forward and followed with the other foot and was on the elevator. Avoiding eye contact, she turned around stiffly and faced the elevator doors as they closed. A second passed, and the another second, and then another. Her fear increased! The elevator didn't move. Panic consumed her. My God, she thought, I'm trapped and about to be robbed! Her heart plummeted. Perspiration poured from every pore. Then one of the men said, "Hit the floor."

Instinct told her to do what they told her. The bucket of quarters flew upwards as she threw out her arms and collapsed on the elevator floor. A shower of coins rained down on her. Take my money and spare me, she prayed. More seconds passed. She heard one of the men say politely, "Ma'am, if you'll just tell us what floor you're going to, we'll push the button." The one who said it had a little trouble getting the words out.

He was trying mightily to hold in a belly laugh. The woman lifted her head and looked up at the two men. They reached down to help her up. Confused, she struggled to her feet. "When I told my friend here to hit the floor," said the average sized one, "I meant that he should hit the elevator button for our floor. I didn't mean for you to hit the floor, ma'am." He spoke genially. He bit his lip. It was obvious he was having a hard time not laughing. The woman thought: My God, what a spectacle I've made of myself. She was humiliated to speak.

She wanted to blurt out an apology, but words failed her. How do you apologize to two perfectly respectable gentlemen for behaving as though they were going to rob you? She didn't know what to say.

The three of them gathered up the strewn quarters and refilled her bucket. When the elevator arrived at her floor they then insisted on walking her to her room. She seemed a little unsteady on her feet, and they were afraid she might not make it down the corridor.

At her door they bid her a good evening. As she slipped into her room she could hear them roaring with laughter as they walked back to the elevator. The woman brushed herself off. She pulled herself together and went downstairs for dinner with her husband. The next morning flowers were delivered to her room - a dozen roses.

Attached to EACH rose was a crisp one hundred dollar bill. The card said: "Thanks for the best laugh we've had in years." It was signed;

Eddie Murphy
Michael Jordan

PS - Pass this around so others can enjoy!!!!

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The elevator story plays on several social mores and prejudices to teach its lesson. A woman comes across some wealth through gambling, then, instead of reporting directly to her waiting husband with her new-found riches, tries to "handle " them herself and finds herself in a precarious situation, which she then handles very poorly. Not only were her suppositions of her fellow passengers' intentions wrong, they responded in exactly the opposite way from what she expected, and rewarded her faux pas. We all get a chuckle at the poor lady's impropriety, but are secretly glad we would never make such an embarrassing mistake.

This legend has been around for decades in different forms and settings. In the early 80's, Reggie Jackson was the imposing figure. Today, it's Eddie Murphy and Michael Jordan. The story works with any imposing black man of considerable wealth and fame. The shamed protagonist is almost always a Caucasian female. Sometimes she is single, other times, as in the tale above, she is attached, but separated from her significant other (usually by some selfish motive), placing her at increased risk. No telling of the story has yet proven true. Break this chain.

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Category: No Joke Too Obvious

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