Elevator Etiquette

Rants December 22, 2009 • 3 min read

It's the end of a long Monday, Christmas is at the end of the week. I'm ready to go home. I get on the elevator heading down.

It stops. A woman boards. Doors close.

It stops. A man with handbags boards. Doors close.

We arrive at the ground floor.

The man steps forward, stops, and holds the door with his bag.

The woman stop-starts, looks at the man, waits, then exits the elevator.

The man motions me. I motion for him to go. He motions me to go. I start to exit. He starts to exit. We both stop and smile awkwardly. He exits.

I exit the elevator and want to scream.

Elevators are part of everyday life. They can be annoying by nature: over-crowded, slow, unpredictable. They're also perfect for social experiments. Ever select the wrong floor or face anywhere but the door? Even with such oddities aside, elevators still become annoying from common behaviors. Consider my experience. We've all been in a similar situation. So, I established an elevator etiquette of one rule, one exception, and one guideline.

The Rule: Exit in order

Your only focus on the elevator is to exit. If the elevator is crowded, exit in order. Don't stand in the front and hold the door for everyone else behind you. It's nice, but unnecessary. Herd mentality kicks in and people freeze. Therefore, it's inefficient and, considering the size of elevators, you are just in the way.

The Exception: Solo males should be gentleman

If you are the only male on an elevator, be a gentleman and let the women off. This is the only exception to The Rule. So, no matter your place on the elevator, as a gentleman you exit last.

The Guideline: Be polite, but not too polite

Much like the gentleman, it is polite to let someone else exit before you. If you wish to assume this responsibility, motion and wait. Yet, be prepared to forfeit your place. If others follow, continue to wait. If someone else is polite and motions you, exit. Under no circumstance should you continue to be polite. They have assumed the role of the polite person. The elevator only needs one.

The Close Encounters

Scenario 1

You're a male in the front of the elevator with 2 females and 3 males.

The Rule: Exit in order. Other males are on board, so you're absolved of your gentleman responsibilities. As you are in the front, being polite would lead to confusion.

Scenario 2

You're a male in the middle of the elevator with 3 females.

The Exception: Solo males should be gentleman. You go last.

Scenario 3

You're in the middle of the elevator, 4 people of the same sex.

The Rule: Exit in order. You're all equal, no need to be polite. In fact, don't even make eye contact.

Scenario 4

It's not your turn to exit the elevator, but someone motions you.

The Guideline: Be polite, but not too polite. You exit. This person now bears the elevators polite responsibilities.

Infinite Applications

This etiquette has infinite application: movie theater, airplane, any mass exodus. I encourage you to put it into practice.

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