Editor speaks out

By on October 9, 2003

“Down please.”

There are few things more awkward than conversation in an elevator. Whether accompanied by an acquaintance or by a complete stranger, this claustrophobic space does not offer many topics for discussion.

In my years of experience with elevator etiquette, I have encountered a variety of situations. The scenario may be that you are alone in the elevator. We generally smile to ourselves as we have been blessed to step into this private space. “Great. I have it all to myself.” This is now a given opportunity to pick a wedgie, check for body odor, or maybe even hum an annoying tune that you know would not be permitted with company in the elevator. Things are going great until the elevator comes to a halt and someone steps on.

Not only do you now lose your personal space, but you are also smack in the middle of a dreaded moment: to speak or not to speak?

It has not been proven why, but it is a known factor that every passenger in an elevator feels personally obligated to break the uncomfortable silence. We tend to feel as though we should provide entertainment for the two second ride to a new floor.

Sometimes a friendly smile or a personable “Hello” is sufficient, in addition to the courteous, “What floor?” Occasionally, you may find that the person is headed in the same direction as you are, providing an automatic bond.

The rider may be riding to the fifth floor because it’s the closest available bathroom, while you are off to the same floor because you are meeting someone there. Regardless of the reason, the common destination brings you closer together. A comradery like this may be topped off by further conversation, and even ended by a, “Goodbye, it was nice meeting you,” at the end of the ride.

At this rate, if it was only the two of you in the elevator, when the next rider comes on choosing an entirely different floor, you two “buddies” may team up against the ‘intruder.’ Generally you may feel that they are entering a private conversation, considering that you have known each other for a whole floor now. The poor newcomer may just stand there in awkwardness, unless he/she feels the need to fulfill their obligation to speak.

In group situations, things become a little more complicated. Often times, a few individuals who know each other may spark up conversation, leaving the outsiders silent and unacknowledged. In some instances, more than one group of people who know each other is together. In this case, there are so many different topics of conversation occurring, that one may even forget to get off on their floor. Lastly, there is the lonesome rider stuck in a group scenario. While one may pity this person, they have an advantage in a sense. They are not relied on for conversation flow, and they become free to eavesdrop on what others are discussing, giving them handy topic ideas for their next elevator excursion later in the day.

Eventually, everyone ends up where they need to go and continues on with their day. No matter how many pressures one encounters however, it is difficult to match the feeling of uneasiness when stepping in an elevator.

Maybe it’s best to take the stairs!


About Jenn Press