Fear of a Silent Elevator

Have you ever noticed the silence that fills an elevator when more than one stranger boards together? A nervous tension is evident in the air, and it’s like a vow of silence would be breached if someone were to open his mouth for a simple, “hi”. Why is this? In most cases, if you pass someone on the street, a simple nod, or a “hey, what’s up?” is usually in order. So why does this not carry over into a crowded elevator? It is beyond me. It seems the strangers around you would rather not even look directly at you. Everyone plays the quiet game, and stands as still as possible, staring at his shoes. An occasional glance at the floor indicator is the only sign of life among these passengers.

I have to ride the elevators to the fifth floor every day on my way to my office. As a rule of good measure, I generally try to start up some weird ass off-the-wall conversation, just to break some ice, as well as to observe people’s reactions. You would be amazed at how shy these people are. They treat everything you say like a yes or no question. I have been known to bring up such conversations as “Did you hear about the bicyclist on the freeway this morning?” or “What ever happened to that baby that was trapped in the elevator last week?” It really doesn’t matter what I ask. I sometimes ask the same question for a week. And since I never forget a face, I can tell if I have used it on them before.

I challenge you all as human beings with thumbs and the ability to reason, to talk to each other on the elevators. Next time you are riding the box to the twelfth floor, break that nervous ice that’s bound to cause the guy in the blue tie an ulcer. Ask him how his kids are. Ask him if he smells that. Ask the lady in the long dress with the soft suede purse if she has ever fallen down a well, or been trapped in this very elevator. Just communicate.

The world is dying, and so is our ‘good neighbor’ mentality. Where once there were open doors, there are now brick walls. Get on the elevators and bring your sledge hammers. Let’s break down these walls and bring friendliness back to life.

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