When you’re in an elevator and the doors close, what do you do until you get to the floor you want? Until about ten years ago, I preferred climbing stairs to get to my destination and rarely took an elevator. But then my knees started rebelling against stair-climbing, and to soothe my knees, I began taking elevators to get to the floor I wanted.
In riding elevators almost daily since then, I began to notice patterns of elevator behavior both among fellow riders and myself. Elevator behavior seems largely to be determined by the relationship and number of people in the elevator.
Common elevator behavior patterns
1. With a friend or two but no one else in the elevator: Converse as they would in any public location.
2. With several people all or most being strangers to each other: Look up to watch the floor indicator or look down at the floor.
3. With many people all or most of whom are strangers to each other jammed together: One or two people crack a joke about the personal contact situation, then all riders fall into mute tolerance while taking as few breaths as necessary until the ride is ended.
4. Alone: Check cell phone or PDA. Adjust clothing, packages, or purse. Watch the floor indicator.
A new elevator behavior
Several years ago, I adjusted my number 4 behavior and began to do stretching exercises while alone in an elevator. Because I was usually only going a floor or two, the exercises were quick and easy to do and included a standing calf stretch against a wall of the elevator, a chest-arm stretch, and a forward bend. I began the elevator exercising when I went to my local fitness center where stretching on an elevator fit into my workout. And, since it felt good, I carried the behavior into other elevators. Why not make use of these few seconds to do something healthful?
An unusual elevator experience
In January, I had an unusual experience while doing elevator exercises at my fitness center. The center’s lap track and machines where I work out are on the second floor. Because of my fussy knees, I use the elevator to go from the first floor where the entrance and locker rooms are to the second floor to work out. The elevator has two doors, one that opens to the first floor and one on the opposite side that opens to the second floor.
I entered the elevator on the first floor, pressed the button for the second floor, and the doors closed. I immediately bent over from the waist and with my legs about 18 inches apart, went into a forward bend with my arms clasped together and raised behind my back. With my head upside down and peering through my legs, I noticed light entering the elevator. Then I saw two legs.
Realizing the door had reopened, I quickly stood up and turned around to find a man standing there, dumbfounded to be greeted by my fully-clothed moon, and hesitant about entering. It was Jim,* a usually loquacious fitness center regular. A casual acquaintance a few years older than me, Jim sometimes stops by while I’m at machine to chat.
I was embarrassed and stammered I don’t remember what in the few seconds we were in the elevator together before it reached the second floor, and I hurried out. Jim didn’t stop to chat that day. I think it is for health reasons, but I haven’t seen him at the fitness center since.
Nowadays, I make sure I’m not in front of a door before starting my elevator stretches.
· * Not his real name