IS TALKING TO PEOPLE IN ELEVATORS GOOD . . . OR BAD?

Every day, in order to leave from, and/or return to my studio apartment, I take the fifth slowest elevator in the Western Hemisphere. The other four are all tourist attractions and attended by a delightfully red-outfitted concierge who says things like “Which floor, sir?” These elevators are slow because they’re “fun.”

The ones in my building are just slow because the building is old and cheap and what are we gonna do? Move? Ha!

So I frequently find myself accompanied by other residents, workers, or prospective renters in my building. What should be a quick zip to or from the third floor is a comically halting, dinging process. Which leads to plenty of opportunities for conversation. Just today I had three. Which led me to wonder:

Is Talking to People In Elevators Good. . . Or Bad?

Talking to people in elevators is Good.

Today being laundry day, one of the first things I did was take the elevator with a basket full of filthy clothes. I was pretty in my own head, to no real positive effect, as I hadn’t had my coffee. An older black woman with grey hair and sunglasses I’d seen around the building a few times got in on floor two.

“Laundry day, eh? That’s me on fridays. Gotta get in there when all the machines aren’t full.”

“Yeah, that’s why I’m glad I’ve got weekdays off.”

“Completely. Sundays are impossible. Well, you have a good day, sweetie.”

She exited on floor one and I continued to the basement. This conversation was good; it was brief, but relevant small talk about a shared experience, and it got me out of whatever morning blues I was experiencing. While it bothers some people, I don’t really mind when old ladies call me “sweetie.” It’s nice.

Saying polite hellos to folks in my building as I ride the elevator diffuses the tension of living packed so close to other people; sometimes it results in a brief exchange like above, sometimes it results in a nod. Either is better than constant silence.

Talking to people in elevators is Bad

Know what an elevator isn’t? A place to hit on people. A place to try to score a phone number. A place to express your appreciation for the human form. And yet, many many people– mainly men– think this 30 seconds is the perfect time to hone their “game.”

It is not. Stop. If you see someone– often women– staring deeply into their phone with headphones on, they’ve likely experienced elevator harassment before and don’t want to talk to you. Even if you’re totally harmless and one of the good ones and just wanted to compliment their tank top.

Talking to people in elevators is Good

It’s important when addressing this question to note that there are many different types of elevators, whether speaking to someone inside one is Good or Bad depends where you are. Work or home elevators are generally more acceptable places to make small talk; you don’t want to spend four years seeing people you recognize from the mutual face-aversion you practice to “not be awkward.” Because after a while that’s worse.

In most cases, an elevator in a public space is a good place to mind your own business. Unlike your home or work elevators, you aren’t likely to see these people again, rendering the likelihood of building a vague comradery around common experience low.

The exception here is when you can offer a helpful piece of information.

“Oh, you’ll want to go one more floor up, the offices are right around the corner.”

“Oh, I know it’s confusing, but you’ll need to go one more floor down for parking validation.”

“The restaurant is actually at the top of the Space Needle, you can stop banging on the door now, it’s freaking us all out.”

Talking to people in elevators is Bad

No one cares how bad you have to pee, or that it was you that farted. None of that is making this thing go any faster.

Talking to people in elevators is Good

If you have successfully scored a date (not in an elevator) and it goes well, elevators are a great place to make out. The whole frequent-stops thing provides a nice urgency to the proceedings, and you can pretend you’re in a rom-com when the doors open and you both have tousled hair. Making out in elevators is great fun!

Talking to people in elevators is Bad

Being in an elevator next to two people making out is the most stupid, gross, awkward thing in the world, but if you say anything it just gets stupider, grosser, and more awkward.

“Get a room, guys!”

“Yeah. We’re on our way to one.”

“ . . . .”

Talking to people in elevators is Good . . . and Bad, since elevators are certain doom!

Not to freak you out, but as demonstrated in the 2015 BBC Documentary The Towering Inferno, any given elevator you get in has a 100% chance of exploding into flames. Said explosion will likely be terrifying, yet mesmerizing, and you don’t want to be the goober who was just looking at their phone the whole time. So prepare some last words: “Tell my wife I love her” works, even if you’re not married, or are but don’t love your wife.

It’s not like these folks would know; you’re just a stranger on an elevator.


Also published on Medium.