Elevator Music

Contrary to what you may feel after a ride on the Luxor’s famed inclinator, the Tower of Terror at California Adventure, or (I assume) Willy Wonka’s mystical glass masterpiece, elevator rides are pretty predictable. You step in, push a button, arrive on your selected floor, and then you presumably live happily ever after. Yet add another human into the equation and your outwardly uneventful ascension becomes a three minute social experiment in a four-walled Petri dish.

We’ve been riding elevators to our hotel rooms, apartments, office suites and third floor shoe departments all our lives, so why is it that the moment we leave the real world and join planet elevator we devolve into awkward, stoic versions of ourselves? Have you ever been charming, witty, or remotely hilarious in an elevator? I’m not sure I’m even pleasant in an elevator. While elevator companions all start with some common ground – whether it’s a shared apartment complex or an extreme aversion to stairs – it seems we ignore standard rules of human engagement and begin adhering to some sort of unspoken elevator protocol.

So after a lifetime of ups and downs with strangers, along with anecdotal evidence from fellow Petri subjects, I’ve ascertained that some form of the following must be part of the lost elevator code:

Article 1: Position
If you’re not the first person on the elevator you do not get to choose where you stand. Wait for the other parties to shift and open a space for you before entering. Once you have your place, immediately face forward. As additional parties enter the elevator it is your responsibility to adjust the leftover personal space accordingly by shuffling horizontally until all parties are equidistant. This is to be done via ESP and with no eye contact.

Article 2: Button Pushing
Save for the occasional bellhop, the person standing closest to the elevator door is the official button pusher. As you enter the elevator the button pusher will decide either to maintain position or to step back and relinquish his button pushing duties to you*. If you are the button pusher, it is imperative that you press the “Close Doors” button as often as possible. The doors will not close unless you do this.

*Exception: If a child is on the elevator he automatically becomes the button pusher. Deal with it.

Article 3: Conversation
Where possible, all communication should be done via awkward smile. If the ride will be long, or the button pusher has abused his power and pressed all the buttons, or you’re just one of those people (I am), there are only two acceptable topics of conversation:

A. Elevator music: If there is music, you may say, “is that ‘The Girl from Ipanema’?” If there is no music, you may say, “wish we had a little ‘Girl from Ipanema’ in here.” Expect no response in either scenario.

B. Unemotional weather predictions: “Looks like it’s gonna rain through the weekend” is appropriate for shorter rides. For longer rides, feel free to embellish, “Looks like it’s gonna rain through the weekend but it’s snowing in the mountains.” There should be no inflection in your voice in order to best convey your own disinterest in this conversation.

Article 4: Exit Strategy
Once the elevator arrives at your floor you may officially relax your stance and begin shifting your weight in order to alert your fellow passengers that this is, in fact, your floor. If you’ve been conversing about the weather, now is the time to politely nod in no particular direction. Once the doors open, walk straight ahead and exhale. Experiment over.

Through the years I’ve attempted to break protocol with a compliment on a dress or a “hey I’m on the fourth floor too!” (like I said, I’m never witty in an elevator), but my unnecessary enthusiasm is most often met with blank stares and awkward smiles. So I would post a copy of this in elevators across the world, but it seems like everybody has it down.

About WhiteElephantInTheRoom

I'm an 80s music lover, traveling junkie, mac & cheese connoisseur, amateur wine snob, party-planning priestess and Chicago transplant living in Southern California. I find adventure in the everyday and have a unending compulsion to write about it. Hope you enjoy reading my mind!
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26 Responses to Elevator Music

  1. Posky says:

    This is all very true but I won’t stand for a boring elevator ride. I usually try to bust out a crazy factoid and hope to engage someone or scare them into submission.

    “Did you know that baby elephants eat pounds of their mother’s dung to get important bacteria for digestion? Can you imagine if humans had to do that?”

    Stuff like that.

  2. Doug Hanna says:

    I have suddenly become subscribed to this brilliance, and you have already become my favorite blog of all time. XD

  3. Jared says:

    This is all fine until someone farts on the elevator and you can no longer breathe. I only mention this because I was a victim of it today. What is protocol for situations like these?

  4. I tend to break Elevator Protocol Code on almost every ride I take, no matter how long or short. Of course if there are no other passengers, then doing so means you just look stupid to the security guard watching the CCTV camera. Solo ranting is unadvised, as you may be met by security on your return to the ground floor.

    But when riding with a companion, I always make cause for people to laugh, think or at the very least crack a smile. There is WAY too much seriousness going on in elevators across the world. It’s actually a great time to test new material on a captive audience. And when the car stops at one floor, and a new person gets onto a box of people giggling – it’s a great thing. Plus – anyone TOO serious would dare not get on to an elevator of gigglers.

    • I once rode down twenty-some floors at a Hyatt with a bunch of fellow gigglers and at one stop a nice gentleman on an apparently very serious conference call politely waved us off when we got to his floor. Just made for additional giggles 🙂

  5. elenamusic says:

    If someone said they were on the same floor as me, I’d think they’d be a creeper. It’s like saying, “hey, we have the same shoes!” to some total stranger. So, now that we have something in common, we have to be friends now?

    There are two responses to this”

    One: If you kind of like the person and would like to further bond, you can talk some more, but once you get onto that destined floor, you must say a quick good bye and venture forth. So, there goes a missed connection.

    Or Two: Look away and ignore the person. You don’t want to bond over your floor or shoe size and now you’re stuck in an elevator with a creepy person that wants to be friends. You may exit the next floor, even if it’s not your floor, just to get away from that creepy person.

    One time, I did get to talk to a cute guy in an elevator… and never saw him again… maybe I’ll see him another time? My parents did meet an in elevator.

    But most of the time, I’m not even looking around, I just want to get to my floor and go where I’m going….

    Sorry for the long response, but excellent article, made me laugh and think… something that lacks in elevators at times.

    Should I mention my fear of elevators too?


    • Hope your office isn’t on a high floor then! How right you are about elevator bonding. I have a few “regulars” on my elevator at home and it’s clear there’s a six ride minimum before you’re allowed to acknowledge that you recognize each other 🙂

  6. NickyBloom says:

    Wow, I never thought elevators had so many rules! Now I know that stairs are better. Besides, it’s the only time I excercise… I had a fun time reading this. Great job! Now I have to go up some stairs to stay fit, hehe.

  7. shenanitim says:

    You need at least a notation on handling Sociology majors in elevators. You know, the ones who have to take an elevator ride facing the wrong way to get an “A” in their Deviance class ‘cuz they can’t think anything better to do.

    (I spent an afternoon completely ignoring my roommate as he repeatedly tried to talk to me as my experiment.)

  8. nancyfrancis says:

    I like to walk into the elevator and stop without turning around. Not facing the door or the buttons makes people VERY uncomfortable. Very strange but a fun way to change up the experiment 🙂

  9. disgruntledprincess says:

    The elevators in my office building don’t have “Close Doors” buttons. In the three or four seconds it takes for the doors to close, I will have taken a nap, composed a haiku or questioned my purpose in life at least twice.

    This post is awesome, by the way. 😀

  10. Vivek. says:

    The one thing that definitely does NOT work on an elevator, is hitting on a girl and hoping to have her number by the time you get to your floor. Tried and failed miserably!

  11. Pingback: Elevator Music (via White Elephant in the Room) | color coordinated escapades

  12. Saxon Davis says:

    Glad to see you wrote the Elevator post you mentioned earlier. I totally agree with these interactive guidelines. Now let’s talk about being at the supermarket. If I am looking at the steaks then “I” am looking at the steaks, not the old lady who pretty much moved me out of the way and grabbed the one I had my eye on. I almost tripped her…almost.

  13. kitchenmudge says:

    When stepping into an already crowded elevator, my usual practice was to remain facing the others (with the apparent excuse that there was little room to turn around) and say: “I suppose you’re all wondering why I called you here today.”

  14. Pingback: Ten Reasons Apartment Living is Awesomer than You Thought | White Elephant in the Room

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