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Elevator Etiquette

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Illustration of man in a lift going 'Shhhhh!'.Lifts, or elevators as they are called in the US, are devices that allow one to travel between the different levels or 'floors' of a building more quickly than the use of the stairs. As with any method of transportation, there are rules of etiquette pertaining to their use. This Entry will attempt to shed light on these rules.

Before the Lift Arrives

The first thing you should consider when approaching the lift is where you are going. If you are only going up or down one floor and are physically able to use the stairs then it is probably best to do so, particularly if you are in a medical facility. In these facilities there will be people using wheelchairs, stretchers, hospital beds, and so on. These transport devices make using the stairs difficult if not impossible and it is often vitally important for these people to be transported as quickly as possible.

Even outside these facilities it is generally considered polite to allow people who do not have the choice precedence. Also under these circumstances, you will generally find taking the stairs will bring you to the desired floor faster than waiting.

Next you should determine if the button has been pressed to go in the direction you desire. This is usually indicated by said button being illuminated. If it is not, you may go ahead and press it even if other people are already there. They may have thought the light was not working and that the button was already pressed, may have forgotten to press the button at all, or may just be deciding on which floor they wish to reach.

It is a generally-held belief that if the button is already lit, that pressing it again will make the lift come more quickly. There is no real evidence to support this. If you are on a floor where you can go in either direction, only press the button for the direction you wish to go in. Small children should be supervised and should only be allowed to press a button with careful direction and supervision.

While waiting for the lift, polite conversation is permissible with those who are willing to engage in it. Those who are not should be left alone as they might have some concerns or stress they do not wish to share with a complete stranger.

When the Lift Arrives

The basic flow of traffic should be to allow people in the lift to disembark before you get on. Only in an emergency should this rule be broken. People remaining in the lift should move to the side of the car to allow others on.

When entering a lift, you should keep where you are going in mind. If you are only going a couple of floors, then you should attempt to stay near the front of the car, allowing those who are going further to board first. If you are going several floors and there is an indication that others will be getting off before you, you should try to move towards the back of the car so far as you can without pushing people out of the way.

If the lift is full or, in the case of a medical facility, there is a person on a stretcher or hospital bed, you should not attempt to get on and either take the stairs as mentioned above or allow the doors to close and the car to begin moving again (indicated by the directional light turning off and the lighted numbers counting up or down depending on the direction the car is moving in) before pressing the directional button again.

If your mobile phone rings, either answer it and remain outside the lift or turn it off as you enter until you arrive at your floor.

If you are in the lift and wish to hold the door open for people to get on, ensure that you are not hindering their ability to enter. If there is a 'Door Open' button, it is best to use this rather than holding the door open with your arm or shopping bag.

When conducting a conversation with someone who does not intend to use the lift you should do one of two things at this point. Either end the conversation or remain off the lift until you have finished conversing. On no account should you hold the door open to continue your conversation. Under normal circumstances you should not hold it open for any reason if everyone else has entered.

Next you should either press the button of the floor that you wish to go to or if you can not reach the buttons without pushing people out of your way, you should politely ask the person standing nearest the buttons to do so. That person should do this without acting put out. You should only press the number of the floor you wish to go to unless you are also pressing the button for someone else. If you are the person standing nearest the buttons and others cannot reach them, you should politely ask them which floor they are going to. It is not advisable to allow small children to press these buttons.

During the Ride

It is generally believed that unless you know someone in the lift, or have been conversing while waiting, it is best to not engage in conversation while the car is in motion. Loud singing, whistling and other noises are strongly frowned upon.

Most people will keep their eyes fixed to the overhead number display rather than looking around at other passengers. However, unless there is an indication of discomfort, looking around at the others is permissible as long as you do not invade their privacy (such as looking into purses for example).

A rule that would most apply at this point, although should be attended to earlier is to reduce or preferably eliminate body odour. This applies to strong perfume as much as it does to not having showered for a week. The interior of a lift is a small space and odours travel to each individual aboard. What one considers to be a pleasant aroma is highly subjective. Similiarly, food and alcoholic drinks should not be consumed in a lift. Soft drinks are generally acceptable

Arriving at your floor

Very simply disembark as efficiently as possible and allow the lift to continue on its way. If you have followed the rules in the previous section this should be fairly simple.

That's about it. If you follow these rules every lift journey should be a swift and pleasurable experience.

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