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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.

“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

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

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

Talking to people in elevators is Good

Talking to people in elevators is Bad

“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!

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

Originally published at how’s your morale?.

Written by

Graham Isaac and Peter Johnson

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