A person spoke to me in a lift last year. Didn’t exactly speak to me. It was more of a greeting than an attempt to engage me in conversation, but none the less, a person spoke to me in a lift.
It’s possible I don’t spend an awful lot of time in lifts, or the person who spoke spends even less, but I suspect most lift users know what I’m talking about.
It was Sydney and the lift of a hotel. Granted it was a tourist, an American visitor to be precise, who broke the silence. And in the interest of global harmony, I should refer to the lift as an elevator. I even tweeted the story and got several retweets which shared my surprise at this happening. I can’t recall the exact words my friendly co passenger used, possibly due to shock. I wanted to respond. I wanted to behave in the usual civilized manner expected of me. Had I been greeted in the hallway or the foyer of the very same hotel, my response would have been an immediate and cheerful reply, but as I was not expecting words to be uttered in a lift (farting is much more common according to the list of 90 Fun Things To Do In A Lift) I was, to my shame, left speechless. In mitigation though for my crime against humanity, the shortness of the lift car journey and the point at which my American lift co-rider uttered the friendly words, left precious little time for me to compose myself and respond before that unmistakable ping/ ring/ chime sound, which always makes lift riders look up, signalled our plummeting metal lined conveyance had landed. G1 Reception
There are those motivated and opportunistic souls who use their time in lifts to hone or apply their sales pitching skills and there are those who are suspicious of others wishing to engage them in social intercourse, but for the most of us, we just get in and get on and over with it – the riding of the lift, not the intercourse, social or otherwise. Although one does hear stories.
There was a group a few years back actually promoting the practice of engaging with others while ascending or descending in a lift. I had a spokesperson from the group on my radio program. He offered a special certificate to those who got involved in the push. There may have even been a special day set aside to promote the theme. I have my very own certificate somewhere which states soberly and in gothic font that I, Michael Francis Welsh, had contributed to the “advancement of people speaking to one another while riding a lift”.
For the trivia buffs, 40-year-old Elisha Otis, a mechanic at a bedframe factory in Yonkers, New York city, began the process of raising scrap wood to upper floors of the building, leading to the installation, in the 1850s, of the first Otis passenger elevator at a building at 488 Broadway. Be safe to assume the first passengers of Mr Otis were far too busy hanging on for dear life in the “newfangled contraption” to pass the time of day with fellow travellers.
Apart from liveried lift attendants in department stores who helpfully navigate the journey for shoppers, and muzak to make the journey more enjoyable?, not a lot has changed in lifts. Why is it that people don’t freely speak to each other in lifts or even greet one another or vaguely acknowledge the presence of fellow human traveller as they enter, travel or alight from a lift?
If this sorry state of affairs worries you overly, don’t blame me. I did my bit and I have the certificate to prove it. Although given that most people still refuse to look anywhere other than mostly forward, and up when the ping/ring/ching sounds, I probably can’t morally display my accreditation. If you really have a need to address this confounding problem facing some of mankind, consider some suggestions from the afore mentioned list
90 FUN THINGS TO DO IN AN ELEVATOR!
Do Tai Chi exercises.
Burp and then say, “mmmm…tasty!”
Clean your gun.
Shoot rubber bands at everyone.
Push the top floor button, and announce that you tried to kill yourself yesterday, but the other building wasn’t high enough.
Call out, “Group hug!” and enforce it.