Going Up? A Little Elevator Etiquette


We’ve all been there. You get into an elevator and something smells funky. There’s no one else in there but you get the distinct impression that the person or people who were just in the elevator before you may not have had the best personal hygiene practices. As the doors close, you stand there hoping and wishing that no one else gets into the elevator with you because you just know that they are going to assume the odour is coming from you. You stand there, watching the numbers turning on the elevator screen, slowly going down towards the main floor. You’re almost there, the end is in sight and then it happens – the elevator stops on a floor to pick someone up. Ugh! You have a second or two to decide what the best way is to convey that the stank ain’t from you. The doors open, the person walks in and you see that look of “pee-eww” on their face and they’re looking right at you. You smile the best, confident “that’s not me who’s stinky” smile but it doesn’t look like they’re buying it. You hold your finger up to your nose in an attempt to indicate that you too are smelling the offensive odour. Do they notice? Do they believe it isn’t you? Unless you ask them or make a comment about it directly, you’ll never know. You’re about to say something about the smell right when the doors open and the other person exits the elevator. Too late, now you’ll never know what they thought.

That’s just one of the many awkward situations that can often arise in an elevator. I’ve seen them happen and also been involved in my share to have come up with a list of what I feel is good elevator etiquette. Here are some bits of advice.

Going back to the stinky elevator, I’ve been in that position a few times before and I too have felt those shameful looks from others. Let’s keep it simple here people, there’s a good chance we’re all smelling the same thing so instead of pretending not to notice it, just talk about it. When I’m in one of those ripe smelling elevators and someone else walks in, I make sure to make eye contact with them as soon as they come in and say something about the smell. You can make a joke about it or just flat out say that you aren’t the source of the stank. Whatever you do, at least you’ll feel better (and so will your fellow passenger) that you’ve, um, cleared the air.

Another really important piece of advice is how to properly enter and exit an elevator. When your elevator arrives and the doors open, instead of bursting in, please make sure to look inside first to see if someone is getting off on your floor. If they are, they have the right of way. Remember that, always allow people to exit first before getting into an elevator. When the time comes to exit, guys, please remember your manners and let the ladies out first. I’m all about equal opportunity and know full well that women are most definitely not the weaker sex but still, a little chivalry is never a bad thing. That being said, ladies, remember that when someone holds a door open for you or allows you to exit an elevator first, you too must remember your manners and say thanks. I’m always left with a bad taste in my mouth when I’ve held open a door for anyone, not just a woman, and they walk right on through without taking the time to say thanks. Not cool people – I made the time to hold open that door, you can make the time to say thanks.

So what about when you’re in an elevator? Maybe it’s crowded, maybe it’s just you and someone else. I think most people these days look down at their phones or up at the news monitor in the elevator, or if neither option is available, they stare straight ahead as if the elevator walls are the most interesting things to look at. I get it, it’s a small space that you travel within with a bunch of strangers for a short period of time. It’s inherently a weird concept. However, as I was once told by a flight attendant, “smiles are contagious so spread them around.” It’s really that easy, just make eye contact with each person that walks into the elevator and give them a nice smile. There’s something about that little, most basic form of human connection that seems to go such a long way. And you just never know what conversation might strike up after that first smile. If you feel like striking up a conversation, talking about the weather seems to be a universal ice breaker. Seriously! I’ve started conversations, or had conversations started with me, all over the world using weather as the topic. Even when I don’t speak the language. It’s amazing how much of an impact the weather has on all of us.

Speaking of conversations, I remember this one time I was riding in an elevator with maybe 3 or 4 other people in it. It was dead silent, you could hear a pin drop. All of a sudden, the woman in front of me turned to her friend and asked her if she was ticklish. Her friend looked at her, confused, and answered “yes”. To which her friend replied “that means your sexually oppressed.” It was the funniest and most awkward moment I have ever had in an elevator. Even though I didn’t know the person standing next to me, I turned to look at them and we both burst out laughing. Even the two women in front of us turned around and started laughing. It was just so out there, so unexpected for that woman to make a comment like that, it broke the silence and connected us all instantly. So much so that we kept on talking after leaving the elevator and walking to the front door. After all, we had to know whether the woman asked the question to purposefully make us all laugh and if it was actually true – did being ticklish really mean you were sexually oppressed? Now you’re wondering too, aren’t you? Google it :-)

So there you have it, a few quick tips on elevator etiquette that will hopefully make those small trips through space and time a little more enjoyable. Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment if you have any tips or stories of your own. I know you have some so come on people, share!

One thought on “Going Up? A Little Elevator Etiquette

  • May 14, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    What’s with elevators eh?


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