Lift Culture

Lifts these days play a very important part in my life. Before I moved to Manchester I rarely used to get into lifts due to various childhood nightmares that I won’t go into here. But since moving I’ve been forced to confront those fears and now I use lifts both at home and at work. In total I reckon I get into a lift around ten times a day, and as a result of this I’ve become something of a lift expert, not so much technically, but certainly in terms of etiquette, common misconceptions and culture.

For instance, there is a tale that if you’re midway up a building, and you call a lift, and one lift is on the top floor and the other on the ground floor, the lift from the top floor will come and get you as it requires less power to drop a lift than it does to lift it. Not true. Lifts are counterbalanced by a gigantic flat weight which runs up and down the lift shaft. When the lift is at the bottom, the weight is at the top, and vice versa. It therefore requires no more power to drop the lift as it does to bring it up, as if the motor’s dropping the lift it is at the same time lifting the weight. It makes no difference.

That was a technical example, which is different to actual etiquette, or in a number of cases, personal preference. For instance, I *hate* sharing lifts with people I don’t know. I’m a very territorial person anyway, so to be sealed in a small windowless box with someone for a period of time, no matter how brief, is quite intolerable. Luckily it doesn’t happen that often; at home I leave and get home at different times to everyone else in the building and at work the building’s not full yet so the (three) lifts are usually uncontended.

If sharing a lift with someone isn’t annoying enough, it only makes it worse when people do any of the following:

  • People who press already illuminated lift buttons. The lift’s control system already knows that the lift must stop at that floor, and has indicated so by illuminating the button. Yet people get in and press it again – why? Do they think it will get there EXTRA FAST if they press it more than once?
  • The same applies when calling a lift. If the button is illuminated, then the lift has been called. Sighing and pressing the button again, as if to suggest that the lift has somehow “forgotten” to stop at the floor and needs reminding.
  • This one’s great: Some, not many, but some people think that if you HOLD DOWN the button of the floor you want to go to, the lift won’t stop anywhere else until it gets there. Riiiiiiiiight.
  • Recursive door holders: God I hate these people. I *never* hold doors for people (see above re. sharing lifts), and as annoying as people might find this, I do it for a reason other than personal space. There’s nothing worse than when the doors are about to close and someone jumps in before they do so. The doors open and go through their cycle again, except now someone else is coming, so the person who jumps in presses the door open button and the doors reluctantly open again. That person then does the SAME THING for another person who’s lagging behind, and so it goes on. By this time the lifts at home are squealing because they’ve got some sort of fucking alarm that goes off if the lift remains open on a floor for more than an arbitrarily short amount of time.
  • People who live/work on the first floor yet insist on taking the lift to the ground floor. You’re coming down from 7th, usually in a hurry, and there’s some fucking idiot on the 1st floor who’s been waiting outside the lift for 5 minutes and is all huffy and sighing as a result who has to stop the lift ONE FLOOR from its final destination when they could have saved themselves and me a whole load of time just by WALKING DOWN ONE FLIGHT OF FUCKING STAIRS. When I build Stuii Towers, I will remove the lift buttons for the first floor and replace it with a key switch, giving the keys to disabled people, etc.
  • “My wife/mate/mum’s just coming” – people who’ve managed to get into a lift with you, but are holding the doors open for someone who’s fucking about in the boot of the car, or talking to someone in the lobby, or SOMETHING that indicates that they’re clearly not really interested in the fact that you’re being held up by them and their companion. This one time at home I entered the lift in the basement and these two horrible children ran in after me and kept their fingers on the door open button waiting for their blasted mother to get her Harvey Nichols bags out of the boot of her car. After a minute and a half or so of this, I asked the children (very nicely) if they would mind taking the next lift, to which they retorted with shouts of “NO!” and frowns and scowls on their faces. Incensed, but unwilling to argue with them, I pressed EVERY SINGLE BUTTON in the lift, all nine floors, then get out and walked up the stairs. I didn’t wait around to see what happened, but you can be sure that the mother would have gone mad, assuming that her kids had been playing around with the lift again and that they would have to stop at EVERY SINGLE FLOOR until they got to their floor. The best part about it was that I knew for a fact that they lived on the 8th (top) floor. I can just imagine the kids: “But Mummy it was this man, he pressed all the buttons!” – “YEAH, RIGHT” *whack*. I’m so evil.
  • People who leave a cloud of cigarette smoke in the lift. Enough said. Exactly how antisocial do you need to get before you start to give a shit about anyone else but you?
  • People who get in the lift when it’s going in the wrong direction. This frequently happens at home on the ground floor. The lift will be on its way to the basement, with one of its passengers stopping at ground. The lift is, therefore, “going down”. Someone on the ground floor has pressed the “up” button, so when the lift arrives at the ground floor to drop of its passenger, the person waiting assumes that the lift’s arriving for them (despite the fact that there was no light or chime). They get in, and promptly find themselves in the basement. Cue the inevitable huffing and puffing from them, and smirking from me.

I could go on and on, but I really need to do some work now. If you’re a regular lift user I’m sure you’ll have a laugh at this and perhaps pass it around your office.