The elevator doors slide open. A few people pile in. We assess our surroundings and then act decisively. We press the buttons of our respective floors; heads drop and phones light-up. The doors shut and the awkward ride begins.
A ride in an elevator is such an odd but predictable social experience. And for many of us, it’s a daily one. If you’re alone, you’re free to do whatever you want. If joined by others, the predictable “elevator shuffle” begins.
Like dots on dice, here’s what happens: If there are two of you, each person takes a corner. If joined by a third person; a triangle or diagonal line forms. Four people. Now we have a square. Add a fifth person. Well, they’re going to stand in the middle.
Unable to bear the awkward silence, someone might muster up enough courage to mutter a “good morning” or a half-hearted “hello.” Others will avoid eye-contact with all their might. And those unfortunate enough to get on last, will be stared into submission and forced to press the “Close Door” button upon each passengers’ exit.
When held captive in an 6′ x 6′ cell with strangers, there are a few things you can do to have fun. You could start a sing-along, meow occasionally, make explosion noises when anyone touches a button, or do a little yoga.
Or you could take a different track, and make it a little less awkward for everyone. On your next ride, give these tips a try:
- Say hello. Ignoring the presence of others makes everyone uncomfortable.
- Not a talker? Give an approving head-nod as if to say: “I see you. Good morning. Let’s do this.”
- Don’t stare. That’s just creepy. Remember, those doors are reflective. People can see you staring at them.
- Respect the turf. Give others room; but when the elevator starts to fill up, it’s OK to protect your personal space.
- Keep the peace. The person on the other end of the cell phone can wait. Keep the buddy talk of last night’s epic escapades to a minimum. And with all of your might, hold back the flatulence – even if you are a skilled fart ninja.
- Closure. When you or a passenger exits, say goodbye or give another head-nod of approval… “We did this.“