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elevator etiquette September 29, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Experiences.
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As part of the big reorg, I’m now on a floor that requires* me to take an elevator to get to my cube. Fortunately, there are three elevators to choose from, but once you get on, what do you do?

CC-licensed photo by Ambrose Little.

CC-licensed photo by Ambrose Little.

Now, I’m not talking about simple courtesies like avoiding the passage of gas or squeezing in when there’s clearly no room for you. I’m talking about the situations no one writes about.

Which is why I’m writing about them.

Proper Stacking Of People. This is a bigger issue in bigger buildings, but even here, where there are ten floors (not all of which we use; some we rent out), if everyone starts work at 9 a.m. it can get a little busy in the elevators. Generally when you get in you move to the back or the sides. The first person in gets the choice of pressing all the buttons or selecting a floor, stepping aside, and letting others choose their own floors. Yesterday morning, though, I was the last person on (there ended up being seven of us), and the buttons for 4, 5, 7, and 8 were all pressed.

First we stopped at 3, because someone on 3 had called for an up-elevator. Unfortunately he had a large cart, so we couldn’t fit him in. Then, up to 4, where I stepped out of the elevator to let people past. Then I got back on, but because everyone else shifted to the back, I was stuck in front again. So I had to repeat the whole thing on 5 before finally getting off at 7 and letting the last person ride up to 8.

Did I do the right thing? Should I have spoken up, said “I’m getting off at 7; does anyone want to step ahead of me?” I don’t really know, and no one complained, so I guess it was okay, but I still felt a little weird. Plus, because I was carrying my backpack, I couldn’t turn to face the doors; I had to stare at the woman pressing the buttons. Which brings me to the next point.

Face Front When Possible. I’ve read “how to disrupt office drones” forwards for more than ten years about facing the back of the elevator, just to throw other people in the office out of whack. But I have to work with these people every day. I don’t know everyone yet; what if I unnerve an executive?

Still, I say “when possible” because sometimes it’s not. Sometimes — as with yesterday — I couldn’t face front because of the size of my bag and the relative tetris of other people in the elevator. The woman at the buttons didn’t look too unnerved, which was nice.

Your Head Should Do What It Does At The Urinal. Okay, this one might be a little foreign to women who haven’t invaded men’s rooms at concerts or sporting events, but guys know that, no matter what, you never turn your head while peeing standing up. You look up, you look straight ahead, or you look down. That’s it. The same should be done on elevators: look up (at the floor indicator), look straight ahead (at other people’s heads or your reflection in the doors), or look down (at your phone or the floor). As a confirmed appreciator of female beauty, that last one can be very enjoyable depending upon which direction you’re facing.

Greet Your Co-Workers. Or even if they’re not your co-workers; even if you work in a 30-story building and have no idea who these people are, you need to be polite and friendly. You’re going to spend 30 to 300 seconds in close proximity; say good morning, and if someone offers polite conversation, take part. But don’t just step in and assume the position. If you really want to avoid conversation, have your phone out and when you’re in place and have said good morning, look at your phone and do something, even if it’s pretending to read e-mail.

Assess The Button Situation Quickly. You’re likely to only have about a second to decide what to do if someone else is standing near the buttons. My personal preference is this: if someone else is standing near the buttons, ask him or her to press the button for your floor. It avoids inadvertent brushes against body parts that you may not want to touch — or that you may want very much to touch but don’t want to get fired for touching. Better safe.

Don’t Press If Your Hands Are Busy. If your hands are full or you’re using your phone, don’t monopolize the buttons. Don’t even stand near them. Let someone who’s not busy handle it and save everyone on the elevator a little trouble.

No Farting. Seriously. Just don’t. Not even if you’re alone.

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* Okay, not requires, but I can’t see myself walking up and down seven flights a day, not with my back and leg issues. One or two, sure, but not seven. My old office was on the first floor.

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