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i'm just a literary tease, my reputation's on its knees.

Musing on Elevators

September 17, 2004

Why is it that no one talks in elevators? It doesn't matter if there's two or twenty people crammed in that tiny tight space, it seems like an elevator ride is almost always a silent experience, save the occasional sniffling or coughing of the riders. Is it that people are secretly white-knuckled and afraid to talk, lest the weight of their words send the elevator and its inhabitants plummeting violently towards their demise? Is it the lack of visual stimulation necessary to spark a conversation? Gee whiz! Would ya look at the way them number light up? Is it a strict social convention with which I am not familiar?

When I was but a freshman at college numero uno, I took a psychology class that required an out of class group project. We were to stage an experiment in the public at large (dangerous stuff, eh? an eternal september of psychology students?). My group chose to study elevator behavior. I wish I could remember the results of our study, but that was a long time ago...

I just remember riding up and down the elevators in Michelle Hall at YSU, standing in the corner of the elevator with a pen and a notebook in hand, watching the unsuspecting elevator riders in their natural environment. I do remember that most people stared at the numbers flashing on the wall, the floor, or the ceiling. Not one person initiated a conversation with another rider. Some people would get on the elevator in the middle of a conversation and continue it but no one started a new conversation.

So my point is?

I have a proposal for the world at large, or at the least the handful of folks who actually stumble across this entry: I challenge you to start a conversation in an elevator. I don't care if you talk politics, weather, or peanut butter sandwiches. Just initate a conversation in an elevator and see what comes of it. Then, of course, you should tell me about it.

Moira at 11:04 AM :: Comments (4) :: ::
Comments:

I remember watching an Oprah show once where they talked about manners and general ettiquette. It's just simple good manners to say "goodmorning" or "hello" when you stepped into a closed public space or came across strangers. Smile at the very least. We don't have charming men standing by roadsides, tipping their hats to every passerby anymore. But hey, acknowledge someone else's presence - how hard is that?

I tried doing it for as long as I could, but then I gave up. Who wants to talk to surly faces and feel like crap anyway?

Posted by: Neha at September 18, 2004 04:55 PM

Weird. I found that laudromats are the same way.

Once, a few months ago, there was a child without supervision who came up to me and watched me play Ms. Pacman and talked about other video games. - But that is a rarity.

Posted by: Brian at September 19, 2004 07:59 PM

Have you ever seen those Rules to Follow When Riding an Elevator? They are like: 1. Always face the doors. 2. Do not talk to anyone you do not know. 3. If you are talking to someone you DO know, cease conversation immediately as soon as someone you don't know boards the elevator. Etc...
I always make it a point to face the back of the elevator when I get on, I stay the same direction as when I walk on. It really unnerves people. I guess it's because I'm breaking the rules! Now I'm going to have to try talking to them too. That will really freak them out.
Hey, It was great meeting you today at the Fruit Market. My daughter complained about not getting an orange the whole way home. I would love to meet again, I'm always up for a good conversation. You seem like a really cool person. Hopefully I'll talk to you again soon.
~Lily

Posted by: Lily at September 20, 2004 02:20 AM

Neha - it does seem like the age of chivalry has gone straight to hell, doesn't it? one thing I did about Greensburg - people do smile at each other. you go wander the streets of Pittsburgh and you're lucky if one person even looks at ya, let alone smiles. thanks for the comment.. keep trying to elevator thing tho.. one of these days elevators will be a happening conversation hot spot.

Brian - oh god! i hate laundromats! i've found the opposite to be true - people ALWAYS start conversations with me at laundromats.. unfortunately they are frequently about topics I would much prefer to not talk about with random strangers like religion ala king jesus and bedbugs. (yes, it really happened to me... shivers)

Lily - I'm glad I met you too! You are my first random internet meeting in real life! We'll have to get coffee sometime.. you down??

As for the Rules in elevators, I haven't seen them and I'll have to look for them... and yeah! Everyone always faces the front.. I'm going to have to try facing the back and see what happens with that. :c) I LOVE messing with people's sensiblities.

Posted by: moira at September 21, 2004 10:53 AM
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