Some years ago I worked in a high rise building. I happened to have an assigned parking place in the basement which had many advantages. It gave me quick and easy access to the underground elevator.
In the winter, the wind whipped through the parking garage with a vengeance and we found ourselves hurrying to the elevator bay to get out of the cold. Because of the pressure of the interior of the building against the outdoor suction of the wind, the door leading to the elevators did not always close properly. A notice was sent out to all the tenants of the building to take extra care to close the door and not allow the building's heat to escape into the garage.
One morning I found myself rushing into the building, trying not to be late. My arms were full of folders and pages of the current project assigned to me and my purse was hanging precariously on my shoulder. I entered the elevator bay by myself and realized I did not hear the heavy outside door close behind me. Without turning to look, I reached back with my free hand and gave the door handle a good pull. No, wait! I did not feel the metal of the door handle. I realized I was feeling material. Kind of a wool blend - like a suit.
I turned back and, to my horror, I saw the stricken look on the face of a very tall, handsomely dressed black man. I had grabbed him below the belt and all I could do was blurt out "Oh, I am so sorry. I was reaching for the door handle! I am sooo sorry." He didn't (or, more likely, couldn't) respond.
Awkward silence followed as we stood in the elevator bay waiting for what seemed like an eternity. I could feel my face was hot and I just prayed he would say something to break the tension. Nothing. We got on the elevator, just the two of us, and he no doubt moved to the furthermost part of the elevator from me. Silence.
I prayed he would exit the elevator on one of the first floors ahead of me but instead we continued our ride together. Oh, please, Lord. Don't let him be a co-worker. I eventually got off at my designated stop and he continued on, never to be seen by me again.
Naturally, I had to share my story with my girlfriends in the office and as politically incorrect as it may have been, I reinforced a stereotype that day. He had made quite an impression on me, as I am sure I did on him as well.