Elevator Etiquette

Elevators

Women should precede men when entering and exiting elevators. And there are no exceptions to this rule. Not even the pope of the Holy Roman Catholic Church or the president of the world’s most powerful country—whether or not on official duty—should enter an elevator ahead of a lady in his company or one in his immediate vicinity.

When entering and exiting an elevator in which there are other riders—even in public buildings—it is a much-appreciated courtesy to extend a general greeting appropriate for the time of day, whether “Good morning” or “Good evening,” for example, to the other riders. Some people will respond in-kind, others will not. Most, however, will appreciate the gentle courtesy, for such manners soften the harshness of the world.

Very few elevators today—whether in public or residential buildings—are staffed with operators whose job it is to obtain floor requests as well as to open and close the elevator door at the designated floors. But on the rare occasions when elevators are staffed, special greetings should be extended to the operators; and in the case of public elevators, it is considered a polite gesture to give a small, symbolic tip, similar to what would be awarded to a bathroom attendant at a men’s club or a doorman of a hotel. Elevator operators, despite their oftentimes stoical demeanor, must contend with the ups and downs of life like the rest of humanity, and it is especially kind of a gentleman to direct a little of his generosity to such persons, many of whom are honest, hard-working immigrants with immediate and extended families to support.

A much-studied social phenomenon, people, even close friends and family members, tend to position themselves on opposite sides of an elevator whenever space permits. And in crowded elevators, many people tend to feel threatened by the encroachment upon their otherwise-personal space. A gentleman, therefore, must be hyper-conscious of committing further invasions of space. For example, rather than reaching across or between people in order to depress the button of his desired floor, he should politely ask the person situated nearest the floor-selection panel to register his request: “Floor 14, please. Thank you.” (The person situated nearest the floor-selection panel should also be mindful to locate the “door-open/door-close” buttons so as to utilize them when necessary).

When exiting an elevator, a gentleman, to the extent reasonable, should (provided that he does not significantly impede the flow of others exiting on the same floor) yield to ladies and the elderly. And just prior to stepping off the elevator, he should extend departure courtesies consistent with the time of day to those remaining on the elevator: A simple “Have a good day,” or “Enjoy the rest of your evening” should be extended—with no expectation of a response.

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