20 October 2008
Man walks into an elevator. Sees a beautiful woman. Man imagines that he and this woman make out on his short ride up to the boss' floor. Man is awoken from his dream when he realizes that the elevator has stopped at his floor. He quickly jumps out the door, only to be met by a coffee carrying secretary who has positioned himself right in the middle of the exiting man. Coffee spills everywhere, wetting the man's trousers, thus ruining the impression he was hoping to make upon his boss. All this because the banality of North American's when it comes to getting on and off elevators. Let me explain.
When you were a kid, did you ever play that hand held game containing a maze of squares and one empty square. The idea being to move around the squares until you have the empty one at one end - or some sort of trivial version of this game. Or rather, have you ever tried to move a couch out of a crowded storage area. Well, both of these are similar to getting on and off an elevator. You see, in order for elevator traffic to function, there must be a standard set of universally accepted laws. For instance, people getting off must exit the elevator prior to those who are embarking on the elevator. You see, if those exiting do not do so prior to those entering, any number of problems can arise; for instance, the elevator may exceed it's capacity and end up crashing to the ground. Or even worse, you can bump into an unattractive colleague who then misconstrues this as an attempt to flirt - you are then stuck with an ugly person with a crush on you, or an ugly person with a harassment suit against you.
To get to my point, I have noticed far too frequently that North Americans do not know how to get on and off elevators. Perhaps this is because they are so preoccupied with their phantasmal daydream, or simply worried about how to balance the office budget after they have stolen from it. I simply don't know the reason, but here are the top 3 culprits of elevator protocol:
1) The "I'm in so much of a hurry, and I'm so important, that I'm getting on the elevator as soon as it stops" - usually male, sporting a tie without a jacket, this first culprit of bad elevator manners can be seen pressing the button repeatedly and is often known to push wheelchairs out of his way to get on the elevator. His unseemly manners can be seen as an insult on two fronts - for one, he is not very courteous to those getting off the elevator and often bumps into people coming off the elevator. For another, he always has to be the first on the elevator, which is especially insulting to all those who he has skipped in line to get on the elevator. He usually scowls at you for pushing a button on a floor below his, as this means his elevator ride will last 4 seconds longer, and he simply cannot tolerate such a delay. Someone should tell him that the stairs are faster.
2) The "oh it's my stop up next, so I'm going to plant myself about 3 cm (or 1 inch for my American friends) away from the door, so that I'm the first one to get off when the elevator arrives" - usually male, wearing a biking helmet and sunglasses even when it is dark outside. This guy runs a huge risk of encountering #1 and causing a collision. Not only that, but he could easily run into a mail cart that is waiting to get on. He also sometimes mistimes his exit and gets off on the wrong floor, when the elevator stop at the floor just above or below his own. Not only does he risk dangers on his end, he also does not allow women off first (the end of chivalry, he is), doesn't care if you are carrying something heavy, are in a wheelchair, or otherwise find elevator travel problematic.
3) The "let's hold an important and LOUD conversation on the elevator that nobody else cares about but will make us seem better than everyone else on the elevator people" - usually 2 people, one of which is always a woman, or at least insecure men. These people generally think that there is not enough time in the day to spare. They have so much to do that they simply cannot enjoy the ride. They are also fairly daft, as their conversation is usually of a confidential or secret nature, especially if undertaken while at work. Thus the information that is so important to discuss during the elevator ride, becomes known to all those on the elevator. Truly short sighted of them. These people usually scowl at you if they suspect you are listening - when really all you're trying to do is forget about work or life and enjoy a vertical flight up or down a distance you could usually walk if they simply allowed you access to the stairwell.
There are a myriad of other guilty elevator culprits, but for purposes of expediency, I will simply name them as follows: person who listens to his iPod too loud; mr. I need to take a bath if I am going to be this close to people; the oops I pressed the wrong button because I'm so short minded that I forgot that I wanted the 4th floor not the 2nd floor; I think two baby strollers really can fit into this elevators, I don't care what the weight limit says, I have to get down to the baby Gap right away before the sale ends mom; I know that I can take the stairs, but waiting for 4 minutes by the elevator rather than getting exercise is my style, when I live on the 2nd floor person; and finally, I know that the fire alarm was pulled but I'm going to use the elevator anyways, because I'm sure this is a test anyways, and I'm not walking downstairs to save my life person.
Well, we certainly are a lazy bunch of self-absorbed passengers when we get on these elevators. As such, here are 5 rules to help you combat elevator faux-pas:
1) When getting on the elevator, stand off to the side, in a V fashion, allowing everyone to disembark prior to getting on the elevator.
2) Always take the stairs, unless there is some form of security constraint, when going up or down 4 levels. I don't think this is too much to ask - unless you are carrying something, when it is cool to use the elevator.
3) When getting on or off, as much as possible, allow women, children, the disabled, or anyone carring things, to get on or off first accordingly. It is just courtesy people!
4) Saying hello, or nodding hello, and generally being in a good humour on the elevator is a good idea. Small talk can often get you places, be it in your personal life or professional life.
5) Stop looking at yourself in the mirror, unless there is absolutely no one in the elevator, but even then, security cameras are probably watching! There is a mirror in the bathroom :)