I’m not curious about how they function or lack understanding of their purpose [though I do have a slight fear of being stuck in one, hence one of the reasons I opt for the stairs 99% of the time — AND GOTTA GET THOSE STEPS].
No, it’s us, the people who ride them, and our bizarre culturally-conditioned behavior once inside one. While waiting for our elevator to arrive, we may be carrying on a fantastic conversation, all jovial. Then, the doors open, we step inside, and it’s like we’ve entered the chamber of our death.
Silence. Staring blankly at what often is a reflective surface. Are you looking at yourself? Or are you checking out who the person standing shoulder to shoulder with you?
Thank goodness for smart phones, am I right? The solution to abate the awkwardness of those 10 or 20 seconds of gravity-defying momentum. No signal? No problem. I am going to pretend to look busy on this here device until I hear the ding that indicates it is my turn to exit this failed social experiment.
Who decided that elevators equated isolationist policies? Why do we choose to not engage with the people riding up with us? Do we think it’s too short of a time to really get to know someone? Is it an inconvenience?
I can hear some of my introverted friends decry the “small talk” default situations like riding an elevator invite. Still, there’s something inside each of us that yearns for that acknowledgement. See me. Even a simply volley about the weather brings us back to the often forgotten reality that we are both of this world, in this world.
We just happened to be in this strange moving box together, at this present moment in time. What could happen if we broached the invisible divide?
Who knows what could transpire in those seconds. A new friendship? A future romantic interlude? An awkward exchange with one hand over our mouth to mask the 20 cloves of garlic in our lunch.
Today, I got in an elevator (28 floors seemed ambitious, especially when running late) and intentionally turned my shoulders to the center of the elevator.
Yes, I was that person. Feel my energy, other elevator riders. I see you. We don’t have to talk. It’s okay. But we can share in the silence together.