Monday, April 18, 2011

Awkward Elevators

Elevators are awkward. The getting on and getting off, the standing in close proximity to strangers, the too-strong-perfume peoples and the random ringtones and text beepies emanating from people’s pockets – or hands. And all of this wouldn’t even be that bad except for the inherent awkward silence that befalls all elevators.

            Now, I’m all for a good awkward silence. I was telling my students the other day about how part of what makes me an effective teacher is that when I ask a question, I’m not made at all uncomfortable by the silence that (usually) follows and will patiently wait until someone answers (you have to allow for a little time for students to gear up and really think about the question). So, I guess what bothers me about the elevator awkward silence is that I so badly want to talk to the other elevator occupants.

            This might mean I’m an annoying person who can never keep my  mouth shut. But, let’s think about this. The doors close and for a few moments, I and maybe two to five other people, share an experience together. Is it a particularly moving experience (wah wah), not technically. Is it traumatic or dramatic? Since I’ve never been in a falling elevator (one of my biggest fears everrr besides spiders and the dark..), no. Yet, I feel this impulse that for some reason these people were brought to this elevator at the same time as me, maybe for a reason? Okay, call me a hippie. Maybe I just really don’t like the silence of it all and am sad that people would rather be reading their Facebooks on their smart phones in the elevator than interacting with other real life humans. Or maybe part of me has an obsession with the whole elevator thing because of the opening of Haruki Murakami’s Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Because of this book, I still want to write a story that deals with time travel occurring (unbeknownst to the occupants) in an elevator. Maybe that’s why I hate the silence – I’m upset that something cool like time-travel isn’t happening while I ride the elevator and when the doors open I’m not faced with ninjas to battle (yup, TMNT circa 1990) so I try to make up for that with a desire to at least talk to the people in the elevator with me. (And that way, if there are ninjas to battle when the doors open, I at least know who’s on my team).

            I feel like this whole post has maybe gotten away from me, and I wish I had some awesome little anecdote about a truly awkward situation in an elevator, but I don't, so I’m going to try and bring it back some other way. What it all comes down to (I guess) is that elevators are pretty cool but really awkward, yet have the potential for some cool magical realism.


  1. My friend and I were discussing this very thing the other day. It started with "friends" who insist that they want to spend time with you and then spend an entire afternoon or evening texting with someone else instead of talking with you. We were talking about how this addiction to texting means we miss out on opportunities to have those brief conversations with the people that surround us. I'm always relieved when I run into someone who doesn't have their head buried in their technology.

  2. I work in a tall office building at the very top floor, so I always have to deal with awkward elevator rides several times a day. Like you, I hate the awkward silence and would like to actually talk to the people riding with me and sometimes, I succeed. However, I am very guilty of hiding behind my cell phone to avoid people sometimes. A lot of my friends are across the country, some in other countries, and I have this insane need to be in communication/reachable for them at all times. As a psychology major, it concerns me a bit, that people are becoming more and more shut off from real interactions. We can shop online without leaving the house, have everything delivered to our door, we can keep in touch with people through IMs, e-mails, facebook, skype... People text instead of calling and hearing an actual voice. It's a small wonder that disorders seem to be growing in number.

  3. I love that you both pulled out the technology aspect from this post. I think I could write a whole seperate post about "cell phone/internet etiquette" (that I, honestly, disobey sometimes myself). The interwebs are an interesting place... it does such a great job of connecting us in so many ways, but such a good job of disconnecting us in so many others.

  4. I would have to agree that elevator rides are awkward. Nothing about being in a small enclosed space is comfortable. The most awkward moment I have ever had in an elevator is when one of my friends tried to call me out in front of the people we were in the elevator with. He said, "Don't be a b**ch" when I was standing with my back towards the doors. I had no idea someone was trying to get on the elevator behind me so I didn't intentionally mean to stand in her way. But my friend thought I was doing it to be rude or obnoxious. The entire ride up the girl just gave me the most disgusted look I have ever received from a stranger.