Ups and Downs

Most of the time, I don’t really think about elevators.

I ride them everyday.  I use them almost exclusively when they are available since I stopped having knees a few years ago.  I get on them and I get off of them, but I don’t think about them much . . . until I do.

Today I got off of the elevator at work and was almost knocked over by somebody getting on the elevator.  That is not even nearly the first time that has happened to me.  Why does that happen?  Why do people getting on an elevator always seem shocked that people are getting off it?  Are these people surprised when a car moves through the intersection in front of them?  Do they feel some sort of exclusivity with the elevator?

A few times people have actually gotten on the elevator before I could get off.  Where does that come from?  Once in Japan I watched people in the back of an elevator get stuck because too many people were getting on and they couldn’t make it to the front.  I watched from the safety of the lobby as the door closed and the people in the back went for an additional lap on the elevator track.

There’s actually an elevator etiquette . . . an unwritten list of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ that are to be observed when riding an elevator.  For instance . . . ‘do’ get on the elevator and position yourself as far from your fellow passenger or passengers as geometrically possible.  That means you should not get on an elevator and stand right in middle.  Nobody wants you up in their business on the elevator.

Talking to people on an elevator is a ‘do’ or a ‘don’t’ depending on who you talk to.  I generally go with not.  That’s just me.  I work in a small building in a small town that I have lived in for more than 30 years.  I know people.  I will make small talk in my elevator in my building.  Outside that zone I am pretty quiet.  I am well aware that at my age it is very easy to cross the border from ‘Friendly Middle-Aged Man’ to ‘Creepy Old Man’.  The border is fluid and can be crossed quickly and without warning.  I just keep quiet and stay on my side of the border.  If talked to I will talk back, but I try not to inflict myself on people in confined spaces.

There is a curious task-assignment thing going on in elevators.  Apparently the first person on becomes the de facto elevator operator.  People who get on afterward then call out the floor number for the operator to push.  This requires the first person on the elevator to position themselves by the panel with all the buttons.  It is a minor breach of etiquette to go to the back if you are the first and lean against the back of the car.  Not usually a big deal because there always seems to be somebody who is willing to take up those duties.  All elevator operator etiquette goes out the window if you have kids under 12 with you.  Few things bring enjoyment into a child’s life the way pushing the elevator buttons do.  My boys have had fist fights over who gets to push buttons.  I went so long with having to push an elevator button that I have occasionally stood alone in an elevator for an embarrassingly long time waiting for a child who isn’t there to push the button.

A big ‘don’t’ I see sometimes violated pertains to social interaction.  A few years ago I was in a hotel elevator with a few people.  A young man was talking to a young lady.  After a few floors two things became obvious:  1.  They didn’t know each other.  2.  The young lady was very interested in maintaining the integrity of item 1.  We watched in embarrassed silence as he asked . . . I swear . . . if she had a map.  Yes . . . he said it . . . because when he looked in her eyes he got lost.  It hurt to watch.  As the elevator stopped at the lobby he stood in doorway and said that he would not let her off until she gave him her phone number.  I leaned against the back wall of the carriage and prepared to ride back up.  If it would help her not to give him her phone number I was prepared to stay on the elevator for as long as it took.  I didn’t have to wait long.  Her look and the fact that half a dozen people wanted off the elevator convinced him to move.  People aren’t in an elevator because they want to be and misplaced romantic endeavors aren’t enough make them want to stay.

Like I said, I don’t think about elevators much.  Apparently when I do I have a lot to say.  Don’t even get me started on escalators.  We’ll talk again soon on This Side of the Diaper.

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