By Harvey D. Kart
Some things in life just never change.
For instance, have you been on an elevator lately? Was there anyone on it? It’s an interesting human reaction in close quarters. One of the things that never changes is our behavior on an elevator when there are strangers onboard. When we get onto an elevator, whether it’s in a healthcare facility, apartment building, or department store, our defense mechanisms suddenly kick in because we are that close to someone.
I’m always fascinated when I get on an elevator several times a day and observe other people’s interactions. When someone gets on the elevator, we tend to back up against the wall, or move to the side, and make limited eye contact. Very rarely, do we acknowledge that other person, and we simply act like we’re the only ones there. At best, the only time we acknowledge the other person is with a small nod or a smile. Typically what happens is if you have reflecting doors, you may sneak eye contact back and forth. There is of course the occasional person on an elevator who will crack a joke and lighten the mood.
At the same time, however, did you ever notice how polite everyone is? We’re so much more respectful to others. Why is that? We’re overly respectful of one’s space and to a fault, seem to be particularly sensitive to position ourselves in a way that gives other people enough space in a cramped space. Sometimes when we get off on the same floor, men will hold the elevator open and allow the women to exit first, or if we’re getting on an elevator, we will gesture to let women go in first. Even if the elevator is crowded and we have to stop at every floor, the maneuvering around to allow people off and on is just incredible. If there are seven different people and it makes 4 stops, we are polite enough to the point where we step out of the elevator to allow people in and out.
There is such sensitivity towards other human beings when we are all on an elevator. Yet, our behavior towards our fellow man and woman is different outside an elevator. Why can’t we transfer that politeness to our behavior outside? If the same four people who were riding down to the lobby with us were in their cars the next day stuck in a traffic jam, would we be as polite? I bet we won’t hesitate to yell, honk at them or give them the finger. If we’re leaving a Pirates’ game, do you think that politeness happens in a parking lot as we are exiting? At a grocery store as we’re moving between aisles, we wouldn’t think twice about bumping into another person’s grocery cart, or make a mad dash and vie for positioning at the checkout lines.
Would you rather live in an environment where we behave towards each other like we do in an elevator? How about healthcare professionals interacting with their patients? Do you want your healthcare professional to have more of a personal involvement or to be indifferent? Do you want your bosses to treat you like you were standing next to them in an elevator and stare as if you are not there?
We often talk about our society not caring for one another or respecting each other, but when you take a typical elevator ride in a pubic place, you know that there’s still hope. For some reason, the elevator is one of the last places where there is a respect for all men regardless of gender, age, political affiliation, or race.
If any of you had any types of experiences on elevators that you’d like to share, email me at [email protected] We’d love to hear from you!
Harvey D. Kart