Twenty-first Floor — Men’s Wear

This post’s title comes from the movie Liar Liar with Jim Carey. I’m not sure why I think the movie is so hilarious, but I used to watch it over and over again in college. There’s a scene where the elevator dings, the door opens, and Fletcher [Carey’s character] says, “Twenty-first Floor–Men’s Wear.” I guess the funny part is that he is in his office building…not in a department store. It is sometimes amusing to say this on an elevator when the door opens…some people get it, others don’t.

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A little situation I encountered in the lobby at work today brought the Liar Liar quote into my head. Not because anything particularly funny happened, but rather just something elevator related. A lady entered the elevator as I was about halfway through the lobby. At first she stared at the floor (you know how it is…”if I don’t make eye contact, I don’t have to hold the elevator”). Then at the last second, perhaps out of guilt, she pressed the “Door Open” button to wait for me. Or at least I thought that was the plan, until she let up on the button just as I was passing through the doors. The doors came together and nearly smooshed me as I stepped into the lift. I mildly commented something like, “Ooh, that’s a little dangerous,” hoping that maybe she would get the point that one usually depresses the “Door Open” button until after a person has made it entirely onto the elevator. Instead, she coolly said, “Yeah, most of the time the doors don’t disengage so quickly.” What?!?…she’s done this before? Does this woman make it a habit of nearly incapacitating folks by luring them near to the elevator and then mischievously letting go of the button just in time to smoosh them?

It got me thinking about how there are definitely rules for proper elevator behavior, and I would like to explore some of those here:

Rules for How to Behave on an Elevator:

(1.) My ears are on fire: Refrain from discussing topics that may make others uncomfortable. One of Marc’s favorite things to do is start completely bizarre, fictional conversations with me on crowded elevators. After work one day, as we rode up to our level of the parking garage, he blurted out, “Hey, I don’t know if you remembered, but I won’t be home until about seven tonight.” When I asked him why, he informed me that he had his gymnastics lesson that evening and proceeded to talk about how the instructor really wanted him to work on his “limberness exercises.” The best example of this comes from our friend Joe. He is about 6′ 2″ and was standing in the far back corner of an elevator filled with about twenty mall patrons on New Year’s Eve, while Marc and I were in the opposite front corner. Suddenly, Joe yelled out, “Hey Marc, did you remember to bring that ointment for your rash?” Marc said, “Oh crap, I left it in the car.” I probably turned five shades of red as our fellow elevator travelers snickered.

(2.) Yakkity Yak, I’ll call back: Hang up that phone. If you receive a cell phone call on the elevator, politely tell the caller that you are on an elevator and will call them back. We really don’t want to hear all about your doctor appointment (see Rule #1) or about how you can’t believe that so-and-so did something-or-rather. If you do choose to break this rule, please refrain from acting surprised when your call breaks up or you lose your signal. This rule may be countermanded only in the event that the elevator becomes stuck and you must call for emergency personnel to retrieve you from said car.

(3.) Eliminate unnecessary eliminations: No gas passing. This should go without saying; but from the smell that Marc and I encountered in the elevator at the hospital a few weeks ago, I think some people may need the reminder. Please do not think that you will be tricky and do this just before you exit the elevator. It is just cruel to leave that kind of “surprise” for the next person who gets on, especially since they will be inevitably blamed when someone gets on with them at the next floor. Elevator + toot = rude.

(4.) Hold that door, please! It’s amazing how many people won’t hold the door when they see someone approaching. Admittedly, I have been guilty of punching the “Door Close” button when I’m in a hurry…yes, I’m embarrassed to divulge that. One of my favorite stories about the “Door Close” button comes from our friend Eric, who lives in Manhattan. He used to work in an office building where there were so many floors that letting extra people on could really make the difference in whether you were late or not. As the elevator filled up, he would intentionally refrain from pressing the “Door Close” button when he got on the elevator and always made it a point to stand right at the keypad so that no one else could press it either. He said that people would get so irate and impatient that they would try to reach around him to press “Close,” but he would physically block them out. Eventually, the doors do close on their own, but I guess we’ve just been programmed to want to go faster, faster, faster!

(5.) Major commitments: Choosing the right floor on the first try. With so many pretty, light-up buttons to choose from, this one can be tough. But think of those around you and punch with certainty. If you do press the wrong floor button and must depress a second button, apologize to anyone else riding in the elevator, but do not do any of the following, (a) comment that it is Monday; (b) inform others that you haven’t had your coffee yet; or (c) laugh or chuckle nervously. These reactions may cause resentment among fellow riders that might only be dispelled by providing them with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

(6.) Clowns in a Volkswagen: Waiting for the next lift. Sardines are nasty, and there’s no need to emulate them. If the doors open and it seems as though your cramming yourself into the elevator is going to make things a bit too intimate for everyone, wait for the next elevator. Chances are, it won’t take long. And most of the folks in your building probably don’t want to know you that well. Just think, you’ll also be so much better off in the event that someone on that crowded elevator chooses to violate Rules #3 or #5!

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