Elevator Sociology 101

Society’s ills
born out in a few moments;
True modern warfare.
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There are certain “social” situations where I think you can tell a lot about a person or a society. Driving rules – written and unwritten – are a good example. I think if properly examined, you can draw many parallels between how a country/city manages its traffic and how its citizenry behave. Along these same lines, I am beginning to believe that how a person interacts with elevators is another indication of their approach to the world.

About 6 months ago, I moved from my company’s suburban location to the downtown corporate headquarters. The suburban building was 2 stories and for the most part, we all used the stairs unless we were sure no one would notice us using the elevator. (I had so many good excuses in my vault for why I couldn’t walk up or down a flight of stairs, I never actually got to use them all.) In the corporate building, there are many more floors, so the main mode of travel is the elevator.

Here is how I would categorize people when it comes to elevators, based on 6 months’ observations:

The darter: This person sees you ahead of them, approaching an opening elevator. They speed up and as soon as they are within 4 feet of it, they dart forward with some part of their body or extension thereof to ensure the door doesn’t close and strand them for an incremental 20 seconds. They are assertive, demanding and mostly get what they want from this world.

The meander-er: This person may notice someone ahead of them approaching an opening elevator, but they have zero intention of hurrying to get there. Their laid back approach is such that they either believe it will still be open when they get there, or it will close and they’ll catch the next one. They don’t really care one way or the other.  In their world, hurrying usually doesn’t make a lot of difference, so they might as well enjoy themselves when they can.

The delayer: You’ve seen this person… they deliberately slow down when they see others ahead of them entering the elevator. Unlike the meander-er  they decidedly don’t want to ride with the people ahead of them. If you happen into an elevator they have already occupied, they shrink back near the buttons, coveting that front-line spot, eyes down. They are uncomfortable with you so close and bend their body awkwardly around the still-opening doors when it comes time to exit. They cherish invisibility and the opportunity to pass gas alone in a quiet space.

These three individuals are joined by three others:

The clueless: This person gets on the elevator so totally engrossed by their phone, companion or the floating spec of dust they just noticed, that they fail to see you juggling coffee, a gym bag and a rolling laptop case that most people mistake for an overnight bag. They don’t see you standing in front of the then closing doors – free-appendage-less – unable to stick a body part in the door’s path – whimpering and puppy-dog-eyeing them in hopes they will hold it open.  The darter sees them as a personal challenge and purposefully waits to the last moment to slide in the elevator in an effort to get them to take note. It rarely works.

The over-considerate: This person notices everything.  When they realize someone is coming, they push the “open door” button, waiting. When you don’t arrive in the timeline they’ve allotted  they lean out the door, peering expectantly at you and ask “are you coming?”  Not only do they hold the door for you, they ask what floor you want, and even try to small talk you for the 7.8 seconds it takes the elevator to lift from one floor to the next.  The Delayer hates this person with a passion and is known to rush in the opposite direction when confronted with this level of attention and grace.

The spaz: I personally like the spaz, because whether I get a ride or not, that moment of approach, when the doors are closing with them on the inside and you on the outside, is pure delight. First, they see you at the last second. Then they shout out loud, lunge across the space, feverishly attempting to find the right button to push to reverse the door’s inevitability. They always pick the wrong button… every time. But they helpfully meet your eyes in that moment before final separation and provide a pathetic, breathless apology – eyebrows furrowed, concern in their voices.  Their call of “Sorry!” lingers for a moment, echoing in the corridor.  And for that moment, I feel loved.

The asshole: There is no way around it; there is one in every society. This person is observant. They notice you coming toward the elevator. They have been known to make eye contact prior to stepping into the elevator itself. However, they in no way, shape or form make any, and I mean any, effort to help you attain your goal of an elevator ride.  I personally encountered this person just yesterday – lunch order in one hand, water bottle in the other.  He made eye contact – saw me coming I’m sure. But as I stepped to the doors, they began to close and he made no frantic gesture of help. I stood there astounded. “Who does this?” Before the doors closed, I loudly stated “Seriously?” in the hopes he would get a clue next time. I feel quite sure it will make zero difference.

So there you are: modern society through 6 elevator archetypes. I welcome your observations from your corner of the world, and importantly, confessions as to which one you inhabit most often.  Perhaps I can convert a few assholes and console a few delayers.

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8 Comments

  1. I am a spaz. At least, I will always make you feel loved. Even if I do walk into a wall or pull open the “push”door.

    Reply
  2. I have been all of these on various days. Sometimes the asshole is just having a bad day and doesn’t want to share the elevator. lol

    Reply
    • i know… i’ve been that way too… haven’t we all 🙂

      Reply
      • yep! Lol.. I thought of this entry today as I was getting crammed into an elevator. This woman kept backing up to ‘let more people in’ even though it was obviously full. She backed right into my sister and we just shared a look that spoke volumes! After we went a few floors and the elevator unloaded my mom caroled “finally! The elevator to ourselves!” and as we exited the cart, I nudged my sister and giggled “you touched that old lady’s butt.” LOL

      • LOL a lot. too funny. no matter what, I think we are all 9 years old with our sisters, right?

      • Mmhmm… We all have to get older, but we don’t have to grow up 😀

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