The other day I was reading emails on my phone while waiting for an elevator that would take me to the first floor to exit the building. I pushed the button and waited alone in a three-story office building comprised of various professions: doctors offices, law practices, a podiatrist and a zit popper.
Now, I’m not afraid to make eye contact or say hello to anyone exiting the elevator before boarding. I’m from the Midwest and we are known as a friendly people. So as soon as the doors opened, I checked the cabin to see if all was clear. There was a woman with kind eyes getting off on my floor, but before I could exchange pleasantries, I saw something flash out of the elevator to my right.
I assumed it was a small dog off his leash, and in that split second, I was fine with it. But when I noticed that the woman on the elevator was not sight impaired, I wondered why she had brought her dog to the doctor’s office. There is not a veterinarian in the building. So instead of reciprocating her warm greeting, I spun around to check out the dog, as I leapt into the elevator. I’m sure my lackluster twirl and sashay was shocking to her, and since I ignored her salutation, she must have thought I was rude or odd. But in one fell swoop, I learned I wasn’t the odd woman out.
Little “Toto” wasn’t a Toto at all. Nor was there a leash on her pet.
Probably because most cats won’t sit still and you can squash their windpipe with a collar. Yes, this gal was either going to a therapist, to get calluses buffed off her feet or to a reading of a will accompanied by her feline friend.
I’m not judging here, but things don’t just fly like that. OK, maybe I was judging, but it made me think why elevators are such odd modes of transportation.
Why is it when most people get in the general proximity of elevators, they behave like middle-schoolers? A veritable wallflower syndrome is bestowed upon the riders without fail. People don’t have to get in the elevator for them to start acting uncomfortable, and a mandated quietness and degree of professionalism is required, as if you are presenting a $30 million contract to the board. Oftentimes, I feel too casual and under-prepared.
There’s also an unspoken etiquette for how people are to board an elevator. If there’s more than one person waiting, the one who got to the loading area first has the right-of-way. Unless of course, you’re standing with a chivalrous person who holds the door, and insists the ladies-in-waiting traipse across his jacket over the threshold, and don’t you dare push that button! That would be rude, with a trilled “r.”
Why is it when the public gets in an elevator everyone turns and watches the closing door, with hands clasped or arms pressed firmly to their sides? It’s because we magically turn 13 again. Heaven forbid your elbow should brush into someone. It would be so embarrassing if your arm touched a cute boy!
I’m fairly sure there isn’t a manual explaining societal elevator policies. But if there were, a required directive prior to entering, during the ride, and evacuation plan would be indexed. But where would such a thick document be posted?
Perhaps if there was a television screen on the elevator wall, actors dressed like old-time lift operators could explain proper etiquette.
Hello. Floor please? Now that I have your attention, let’s go over the mandated regulations…
It could be similar to some airlines where the flight attendants are no longer presenting safety instructions. Some airlines have videos that are shown as the plane taxis to the runway. Since the world is hypnotized by electronics, the best way to grab people’s attention is by giving them a free movie. Add a little humor to this instructional video and you would have a captive audience.
This would fix the wallflower problem, too. Imagine how you would only have to focus on the screen and could ignore the people around you without that tense feeling.
…Let’s go over the mandated regulations. First, please keep your hands and other body parts to yourself at all times. Remember this is a no-smoking ride, and cats are strictly prohibited.
previously published in The Kansas City Star on December 24, 2015