Let’s make elevator rides a little less awkward

I have always been intrigued by the lack of etiquette that people have when it comes to elevators. Sure, it’s nice to hold the door for someone or press the floor button for others, but there comes a time when snap decisions have to be made in exigent circumstances.

I made the decision to hold the elevator for a girl who seemed to be in a rush. I pushed the twelfth-floor button as she squeezed inside. She nodded, turned and pushed the second-floor button. I looked at her in utter confusion. She wasn’t handicapped or carrying anything heavy besides a California Pizza Kitchen box, yet she decided to take the elevator when the stairs were a mere 10 feet away. I brushed it off, giving her the benefit of the doubt.

Cooper Haskell | Daily Trojan

The elevator stopped and opened to the second floor. She stuck her head out and looked down the hall. She said something like, “I think this is my floor. Can you hold the door while I run out and check?” Without giving me a chance to answer she took off down the hall. She never returned.

Placing people in awkward situations is insidious and unnecessary. Uniformity, coherence and common sense are key.

The distance for holding an elevator door for others is haunted by a penumbra. There is no perfect distance. Nevertheless, a quick decision must be made. If no perceivable effort to reach the elevator is made on their part, letting the door close is permissible. No harm, no foul. If they have to raise their voice to get your attention, they could easily reroute their energy to walking up some stairs.

Waiting for the elevator with others can quickly snowball into misunderstandings. Once, while waiting, the person next to me pressed the button to call the elevator. Not a moment later, I pressed the button again — a re-call.

My mistake most likely came off one of two ways: Either I believed he was not adequately equipped to call the elevator or I partook in the cultural misconception that pushing the button twice makes the elevator speed up.

Once you enter the elevator, the following dreaded question rears its ugly head: “What floor?” That decision really depends on the comfort levels of the individuals involved; it is completely subjective.

If you happen to occupy the space around the buttons in a crowded elevator, you have tacitly agreed to take on the responsibility of asking, “What floor, everyone?” But, for instance, in a non-crowded ride, if someone enters while listening to music, don’t ask — just give him or her space. Eye contact is not necessary. It is up to him or her to press the button.

No one should have to go through the humiliation of pantomiming a conversation for something that is so easily resolved.

The overcrowded elevator is the definitive peevish situation I strive to avoid. Nothing is more pernicious than being trapped and pressed up against a stranger for the interminable duration of a now regretful elevator ride.

Best guess for a comfortable ride: five to seven occupants. The four corners are claimed and empty spots are filled. This arrangement leaves room for elbows, bags and breathing — all the necessities. Should an emergency occur, claustrophobia can potentially be avoided.

In an elevator, everyone is trying to get somewhere. Making that trek slightly more bearable for all is something we can all appreciate.


Andrew Gomez is a senior majoring in philosophy politics and law. His column “Bête Noire” runs every other Thursday. 

8 replies
  1. Gigi
    Gigi says:

    Ummm yes it’s an article! It is appropriately in the “Bête Noire” column, “Bête Noire” meaning pet peeve, makes sense to you now?

  2. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    I met my husband in a university elevator when we were grad students, and we’re just about to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Keep an open mind and a positive attitude, for you never know where your ride might lead.

  3. Thomas
    Thomas says:

    I have to agree with Mark. I make sure I give a very loud look toward the person walking in at the first floor and pressing the second floor button. Thank you to the person who noticed me and said, “I know, I’m lazy…” Uour honesty was appreciated.

  4. Mark
    Mark says:

    The worst thing I experience on a regular basis while traveling from the ground floor to the 4th floor at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center are those who have decided, “I will not use the elegant and grand staircase that flows from the International Plaza to the 2nd floor, but instead, I will further the obesity rate in this great nation and take the elevator.” REALLY? I mean, REALLY?

  5. thick skin
    thick skin says:

    Yeah, people are aloof nowadays because of our digitized culture. I try the “friendly thing” in all perfunctory social instances. But when people act indifferent, or straight out ignore me, after polite gestures, I used to get upset. I don’t care as much anymore. I’ve grown thick skin and realize that some people’s upbringing formed their callous gestures. Some are afraid that their gestures are awkward and hence their “unrequited responses.”

  6. Susan
    Susan says:

    I take another view re the elevator ride. I feel that our digitized culture has created too much separation between us, so I always engage with everyone in the elevator. At the beginning of the day I ask each person if he or she will have a good day – they think about it and respond. I encourage them to imagine a great day, and suggest that if things aren’t going so well by 3 in the afternoon, they should remember that they have met the elevator cheerleader, and their days will be great again. We always share a smile (even if it’s between my elevator companions, with the subtext of – she’s a looney, isn’t she?) Then I suggest that I’m recruiting, and everyone can be an elevator cheerleader. We’ve made a human connection, and our time will be all the richer for it.

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