June 15, 2004

Elevator etiquette

Up and down all day long in a small cabinet the size of two or three old fashioned telephone booths. If you are lucky, you have the place to yourself for the trip. If not lucky, you've caught the local on the way down and it feels as if you've stopped on every floor for someone to get on or for someone to hold the door open until it buzzes while they're waiting for their friend to catch up.

What button is worn down to the plastic cover on an elevator in NY? The "close door" button. Not the open door, the close. In fact, you regularly hit the close door button before you push your desired floor button. Helps to keep the rif-raf out, don't you know.

What happens if you end up in the local -- crowded or otherwise? The etiquette is interesting. First, the make up of the cabin helps determine the etiquette. Perhaps your fellow travelers include the nice woman from the African country UN Mission a couple of floors up. Well, then you chat with her in French. You discuss only the weather. Nothing more, nothing less. You hope you do not see her more than once in a day. If you do see her, hope that the weather has changed in the meantime. Maybe the elevator contains the mailman or the FEDEX guy. These guys you say hello to. You know them and it's important to be friendly. To them, a quick word about sports is in order.

Then you may have a cabin filled with strangers. What do you do then? Again, while it depends on the kind of stranger, you can't go wrong following the general Urinal Rule. Men will be familiar with this rule. The Urinal Rule means you look only down or up and never to the side. Translated for the elevator, you look only at the floor indicator as it changes or down at your watch or keys or shoes. No eye contact. Do not check out the young woman no matter how little clothing she may be fashionably almost wearing. Not polite and probably even vaguely threatening to her when she's locked up with you in that small space. Try to tune out other people's cell phone calls or conversations. The exception is the messenger. The messenger always wants to talk. Maybe he doesn't get a lot of human interaction. Whatever the explanation, he'll want to pass the time of the ride in conversation of sorts. Indulge him. It's safer that way.

The thing I've noticed the most though is that when strangers are thrust into close proximity with each other in a confined spot like an elevator cabin in a big city, mostly, they all pretend that no one else is in there with them. They pretend so hard, that they are clearly acknowledging the other people.

It's odd. But at least, usually, it smells better that the urinal.

Posted by Random Penseur at June 15, 2004 09:44 AM
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