Elevator etiquette: more than pressing the right button

Photo courtesy of Beatrice Domingo

I press the elevator button. Then I wait.

On a good day, the elevator might get to my floor in a minute. Today, I stand in front of the elevators for five minutes and 30 seconds as I hear one elevator beeping as it passes the lower floors, then my floor, then the floors above mine. I wait in anticipation, hoping that, with each beep getting closer, one of the elevators will stop at my floor.

Today is not my day.

Three more beeps. The elevator finally opens up, and I’m greeted with 11 people crowded in the elevator, only I’m not really greeted by them because they’re all on their phones. Or they are intentionally avoiding eye contact by staring at the floor or the buttons by the door. No one really makes space for me, so I just kind of squeeze between a guy who gives me the side eye and a girl who has tried seven times to send the same text message.

Put your phone away.

The ride is silent except for the occasional small talk between people who choose not to pretend like they don’t know each other. It’s usually short-lived.

The elevator reaches a floor that I do not intend to get off on, but I am socially required to step off the elevator so that whoever pressed the button for this floor can get off. If I am the person who needs to get off, people will not always let me through. They are too busy trying in vain to send the same message, unaware or perhaps intentionally ignorant that there is no cell signal in the elevator shaft.

Put your phone away.

The elevator commute guarantees traffic for about 30 minutes before the start of any class during the week. There is also traffic on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, coupled with lonely bottles and red solo cups that are deemed unworthy and left behind in the elevator.

So I can expect an awkward elevator ride pretty much every day that I leave my apartment.

The elevator commute back up to my apartment is almost worse.

I wait in the lobby with eight other people. One person is holding three packages; I can barely see their face. Another person is losing feeling in their fingers from holding a week’s worth of groceries in their hands.

The magic doors open, and we all file in. One by one, everyone presses buttons to their floors. 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 13, 16, 17, 19. The doors are about to close, but someone runs inside. They press “1”.

Floor 1 person gets off, and a small chatter begins.

“What, he couldn’t take the stairs?”

“We shouldn’t have let him in.”

We reach Floor 10, and an elevator passenger-hopeful walks into the elevator, nose glued to their phone, only to realize that the elevator is going up and they need to go down. The elevator door begins to close, and they dart back out with an “Oh, crap.” The elevator freaks out too, and opens its doors and slowly closes them again with a loud, steady beeeeeeeeep. The person next to me rolls their eyes.

One by one, people get off on their respective floors and the air in the elevator gets noticeably less stuffy. By the time there are only three people left, there is finally enough space to breathe, grab our keys out of our backpacks and prematurely take our stances in front of the door.

I am certainly guilty of using my phone in the elevator or getting on the wrong elevator or not moving out of the way when someone needs to get off on their floor. However, consider this. Consider putting your phone away, being more mindful of the other humans there with you, and maybe taking the stairs when you’re only one floor away from where you need to be.

No one wants to see you press the “1” button.