I slightly sprained my ankle over the weekend. So, stairs and I are not the best of friends this morning. Luckily, the train station near my job has elevators. I generally don’t use them, but today I swoop into the first elevator behind two other women just as the doors close. As we are at the lowest level and each just left the same train, there only one direction to go, up. One woman, on my left, is standing by the call panel, I notice she is holding a paper towel sheet. A common enough sight these days in the world of Covid. The other woman slightly to my right has a cane. The three of us do that I see you, but I’m not looking at you, thing in which all mass transit commuters and in this case, strangers in an elevator excel.

I’m mentally patting myself on the back for my excellent timing for the elevator so a few seconds pass before I realize we are not ascending to the mezzanine level. I look at the call panel and sure enough neither woman has pressed the button. I was about to make a little joke on how elevators might work a little better if at least one of us remembered to push the button, when the woman to my right sucks her teeth, rolls her eyes and reaches in front of the woman to my left to press the call button.  

Okay. Clearly something is going on there that I missed, but my name’s Nat, I’m not in that. Whatever.

There is an odd tense silence as we ascend to the mezzanine level and exit. We make our way to the next elevator that takes us to the street level. In this elevator, the woman who was to the right of me, and I have switched places. Like the previous elevator, there is only one destination to choose, the three of us are going to the street level. It’s an unspoken rule in such situations, if they are nice, the first person to enter an elevator will hold the door open button for others to safely enter before they push the button for the floor. IF they are nice. And that’s when I begin to see the problem.

The woman with the paper towel, having entered first is again closest to the buttons, but for some reason she does not push it. She stares straight ahead clearly expecting the other woman or I to push the call button. You know, the call button that she is standing right in front of.

Now I know why there was teeth sucking and eye rolling as I struggle not to follow suit with a annoyed huff. I remind myself these two women are my elders. If I’m lucky I will annoy some near sixty-year-old person with my own special brand of curmudgeon-dy in another decade or so. Still…

No. No. No. No. No. It is barely 7 in the dang morning! It is MUCH too early for such trifling nonsense. And I haven’t had my coffee yet!

To put in some context, the trains were fast this morning. I am really early for work, so I could easily be 100% that bi-er-that person and wait the two of them out. However, my ankle chose that moment to remind me of its slightly-less-than-optimal existence.

Fine! I’ll be the mature one.

Now you know any situation where I, Raivenne, am forced to be the mature one, is a stupid situation. I start to reach for the button when the woman with the cane clears her throat loudly. You know that throat clearing sound your mama made right behind you when she’s caught you doing something you know have no business doing? It was that sound. It was near Pavlovian the quickness in which I snatched my hand back like a switch took to it.

“Etiquette dictates when walking with a sharp implement you do so with the point towards you, because in case of an accident ‘cause it’s kinder to harm oneself than another. It seems t’me the one with the ability to protect us all from the germs on them nasty ol’ buttons with that trusty lit’l napkin they carryin’ jus’ for that purpose should be like the kind one and press it fo’ us all.”

Aww sookie-sookie now!

I don’t know if Napkin Lady was from the south, but Ms. Cane surely was. Her call out was delivered with all the all sugar and spice and mint julip enough to make Scarlett O’Hara, or at least Julia Sugarbaker, proud.   And me?

Hmm, I never noticed that spot on the wall before! It looks old. Surely facilities had been through here over the long weekend, the floor is cleanHow long has it been there?

Yeah, let me tell you, that wall in front of me was The Most Interesting thing in the cosmos just then. Enough that I embodied the three monkeys because I was not saying a dang thing as I pretended that I did not see as napkin clad knuckle pressed the call button, nor heard the very self-satisfied sniff behind me.

I swear for a moment it felt like I went back in time and I was that small child caught between grown folks arguing about grown folks things and hoping they don’t notice I’m there and then turn on me for listening to grown folks conversation when I can’t go anywhere because I’m not grown and (whoa – whoaaaa – sorry about that – tiny bit of PTSD there – I’m back…).  I did not have to see it to know some serious side-eye between those two happened behind me. I’m just grateful I didn’t hear (in)sincere apologies if a cane accidentally made contact with a foot.

When the elevator doors opened, I got off first and left them to whatever passive-aggressive shenanigans were employed before they went their not-so-merry little ways.

Let’s see how others are slicing it out this Tuesday…

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12 thoughts on “Elevat-tiquette

  1. You made an entertaining piece out of this elevator encounter. I enjoyed reading it and was glad that I wasn’t on the elevator. 🙂

  2. Got a chuckle out of this. I can just picture the scene unfolding. Maybe rules of etiquette for elevator button pushing need to be posted above the buttons. Maybe a sign that says “Smile, you’re on candid camera” as well.

    • “Rules of Etiquette for Elevator Button Pushing” LOLOLOL. I wish. Better chance for the “Candid Camera” sign. That was was such fun show. Thanks.

    • LOL, thanks! It’s one of those unofficial etiquettes I think, akin to stepping to the right so people can pass you on the left. It’s not written anywhere (that I know of), just things I’ve observed many people have done over the decades. I mean if you’re going to rush into the elevator and then stand dead in front of the call buttons, you have pretty much assigned yourself the position. You can’t catch an attitude if asked to push a button you’re blocking. It’s like sitting in the exit row of a plane, if you’re not willing to do the task that might come with it, don’t sit in the seats. The only possible reasoning for not being willing to do so would be sabbath, and at 7 in the morning on a Tuesday, that was highly unlikely.

  3. “Now you know any situation where I, Raivenne, am forced to be the mature one, is a stupid situation.” HA!

    Raivenne, it’s posts like these that make me even gladder we got to meet online. I mean, your voice shines through already. And being able to HEAR this in your voice? YES. I may or may not have freaked out the dog with my laugh-out-loudness.

    All of it, from the eye-rolling, to the all-of-a-sudden-MESMERIZING-spot on the wall, to that feeling of being right back there in childhood witnessing something you shouldn’t…ALL of it. You captured it SO well.

  4. This is why suburban life is drained of color . . . I was just speaking with a friend of mine about how little time I spend in public spaces.

    Thank you for reminding me that these moments carry weight. You invited us in and never let us leave the elevator because you were in charge of our call button.


    • Exactly, Jaclynfre. Thanks. Like I said to Debbie Lynn above, if you stand there it’s only common courtesy to push the button. All she had to do was step back. It would have been understood she was not going to do so and neither the other woman or I would have been standing there waiting for no reason. But hey, it gave me a slice to post, so that’s good.

  5. Lol….I think I’d pay to see you snatch your hand back and straighten up, but I totally understand that which is engrained in our marrow. Sorry to hear about your ankle.

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