Currently, the building I live in has an elevator and I find myself in it often. I live on the seventh floor, my car is parked in the basement, the gym is on fifth level, and my building’s front door is in the lobby. I am betting many of you spend your daily minutes in a similar way.
So why not make this time purposeful? Elevator time could be a chance to learn something from one another.
When researching this topic further one thing is clear, talking while traveling is a polarizing subject. Furthermore, there are some common behaviors:
(1) Do you find yourself praying that the elevator doors will open to unveil an empty space you can enjoy all to yourself for several glorious seconds?
(2) Can you not even enjoy this time because you are too busy praying the elevator won’t stop and a person, like me, might enter and <gasp!> want to know how your day has been?
Perhaps (3) upon entering the elevator you frantically press the close door now button in an effort to block that poor woman with groceries bags that you can almost see out of the corner of your eye making a run for it, or,
Lastly (4) smile widely when you have passed the recreational floor on your way up or down because the chance of getting to your destination uninterrupted is now clearly in your favor?
I get it, really I do.
Sharing a small space can be uncomfortable and talking about how you really are takes more than a few floors. So it’s easy to understand (clearly, lots of personal bias here) why the alternative: cringeworthy silence and superfluous shifting /unnecessary throat-clearing might be just plain easier and a more personally pleasant experience for you.
This unique shared behavior reminds me of a phenomenon (really people, there is no better word for it) in San Francisco called, “casual carpool.” Do you know of it? Each workday at designated-yet-unmarked spots near the Bay Bridge, people wait to get and give a ride. That’s right, strangers going to work pile into cars of other strangers to meet the minimum requirement of four people per car all in an effort to escape a five dollar toll, and the trauma of public transportation, and enjoy the pure freedom of the carpool lane.
The thing is, it’s a lot like an elevator–you never know who you are going to get when those doors open. But there are rules of engagement, lots of rules. For instance, you cannot talk unless the driver encourages conversation first. I am told this rarely happens. Imagine every Monday thru Friday, hundreds of cars filled with time-sensitive and fiscally-responsible strangers riding along in silence? It might as well be an elevator ride at an office building at 8:30 am, each person privately begging for their destination to hurry, for the doors to be opened, and for the looming awkwardness to immediately end.
I say, what’s the big deal? Next time you are in an elevator, chat it up. Break that dreaded silence. Be the casual carpool driver and encourage conversation! I don’t care much about chatting on a lift to anywhere and I would love to know how you are.
I am Loren from San Francisco. I count airplanes, coffee, Arcade Fire, mysteries, and the color pink as a few of my favorite things. I am currently a Masters student at Northwestern learning about how people really act at work, so behave!