Elevators are a part of my day to day work life. I normally take one down a few floors, and although I realize that I can take the stairs, sometimes I have a cart with me or have worn silly office shoes for too long. What strikes me is that people who are waiting to get on the elevator are so viscerally upset when the doors open and I am standing there. It’s difficult not to take it personally, but what I realize is that these people simply feel somewhere deep down that the elevator is their personal transport. Their reaction, usually rushing to get on, without even seeing if there’s another person waiting to get off.
So, I present the proper protocol for elevator use and decorum:
First, if you are an able bodied person, you don’t need to take the elevator up one floor. Stair wells are almost always right next to the elevator. Walking up a few steps to go up one floor isn’t going to hurt you, and if you factor in the time it takes to wait for the elevator, it takes almost the same amount of time to simply walk up the steps. If you work an office job like me, you probably spend most of your day sitting, so do yourself a favor and get a few extra steps in. It might very well be the only exercise you get today. General rule of lazy asses, you can probably stand do use this rule of thumb for upwards of three floors. If you’re out of shape, like me, just take it slowly. Most stairwells are under utilized, hence the inspiration of this post. Take the time to enjoy the few moments of peace and quiet as you do something healthy for yourself.
Second, if you must take an elevator, for whatever reason, treat it as you would a gun: always loaded. Expect to see people waiting to get out when the doors open. Blocking the doors in the expectation that the elevator will be empty is a common behavior because of how quickly elevator doors close and move on to their next destination. However, if you are blocking the door and the elevator is full, there’s more time wasted in the awkward dance of getting people out and then allowing the next group to load. Step back from the door, and give the people some courtesy. I’ve actually had people push their way on as I’m trying to get through the door. Not only is that incredibly rude, but it also assumes that I don’t have the right to be there somehow. Just wait two seconds. It’s not going to leave without you, and if you’re considerate enough to wait your turn, I’m happy to hold the door for you.
Also, as you are waiting for the elevator, be aware of your surroundings. People may be a few steps away from wanting to ride along with you. I usually will say something if I see another person coming toward the elevator. They may not be joining you, but more often than not, will be grateful that you were so kind to ask. To jump on and not hold the door for someone is definitely going to make you look like a jerk. Especially, if they get there just as the doors close in their face, and you’re standing there, realizing only then that someone other than you exists on the planet. Even if it is unintentional, some of these moments are unavoidable, but if you do your due diligence to you fellow humans, you can go about your day feeling like you did your best. You may very well run into the person again, so better to have made a good impression.
Finally, observe the rules of elevator riding conversation. Feel free to make light conversation. You only have about 15-30 seconds between floors, so your topic of conversation needs to wrap up as the doors opening. Weather is always good for this, a simple observation of the day’s activity, can be wrapped up quickly. I tend to avoid sports talk, because these days most people have pretty elaborate opinions about sports, and it is difficult to wrap it up in time. And, if all else fails, you can simply count down the days to Friday, and remark how great it will be when the weekend arrives. Should you decide to not talk, which is perfectly acceptable, at least acknowledge the person when they get on the elevator and wish them a nice day when they leave. You can look down or up, but don’t stare at them. Basically, treat a person with dignity and respect, and your elevator karma will increase. That way, when you’re running to catch it, people will be far more likely to hold the door for you.