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How To Not Be A Dick In The Elevator

This school needs a Core class on how to properly ride an elevator.

Bwog Staffer Jake Tibbets is tired of all of you not knowing how to ride elevators with decency and no, he’s not going to write an op-ed about it. 

When, during my senior year of high school, I learned that I had been accepted to what some (i.e., Deantini) may consider to be The Greatest College in the Greatest University in the Greatest City in the World™, I was told by countless peers, educators, and relatives that I would be spending the next four years of my life surrounded by some of the best and brightest students in the world. When I first heard this, I believed it entirely. Upon setting foot in Furnald Hall for the first time during NSOP, however, I quickly realized that not everything was as it seemed. Sure, Columbia University is home to countless high school valedictorians and salutatorians, plenty of National Merit Scholars, masses of award-winning musicians, hordes of top-tier athletes, and (perhaps too) many aspiring entrepreneurs—all of whom are hard-working, resourceful, and intelligent. But underneath the student body’s skilled, accomplished surface, there lies a terrible, terrible problem: almost no one here seems to know how to ride an elevator.


To be clear, I’m not arguing that no one here knows how to use an elevator on a technical level. After all, riding an elevator is a fairly simple process that requires an individual to press one button, enter a metal cage, press another button, wait, and exit the cage. The problem, however, is that far too few people seem to care at all about the unwritten rules about elevator use that underpin interaction and relationships. When people fail to follow these rules, they, whether they know it or not, risk letting society disintegrate entirely. As Bwog’s resident social assassin, I have decided to take it upon myself to write down some of these unwritten rules in order to ensure that riding an elevator at Columbia is an enjoyable-at-best-and-insignificant-at-worst experience and to maintain order and therefore, you know, prevent everything from going to shit.

Rule #1: Let people exit the elevator before you enter. This rule is similar to the unwritten rule that dictates that you allow the car that stopped first at a four-way intersection to go first. People who are coming from the inside of the elevator have the right of way. If you violate this rule, you’re in the wrong, and people will judge you for it. Period.

Rule #2: Don’t use the elevator unless you’re travelling up more than two stories or down more than three stories. It should go without saying, of course, that this rule doesn’t apply for a.) disabled individuals or b.) individuals who happen to be carrying an item that can’t be transported via the stairway. If you don’t belong to either of those two groups, however, consider taking the stairway. By doing so, you’re saving the time of the people using the elevator who actually need to use it and you’re giving them extra space. Besides, every single one of us should seize the opportunity to burn off the caloric equivalent of a JJ’s mozzarella stick when presented with it.

Rule #3: Follow the n±1 rule. What is the n±1 rule, you may ask? That’s a good question, considering the fact that I just made it up. Essentially, though, the rule goes a bit like this: If you enter an elevator and someone has already pushed the button to go to the fourth story, and someone else has already pushed the button to go to the sixth story, and you need to go to the fifth story, don’t push the button to go to the fifth story. You’re simply wasting the time of the poor student who needs to get to floor six. Get off at floor four (if you’re coming from a lower story) or at floor six (if you’re coming from a higher floor) and walk the rest of the way. It’s only one story. It’s not that bad. If the first person is trying to get off at floor three rather than floor four, you should first admonish him for violating Rule #1 and should then wait until the elevator stops at floor six before getting off. If, however, the two people in the elevator before you are heading towards, say, floors three and seven, feel free to have the elevator stop at five. So long as the elevator isn’t already heading to a story that is within a one-story range from your destination, you have the right to have the elevator stop at your destination.

Rule #4: Don’t take up any more space than is necessary. This should go without saying, but, alas, it doesn’t. If you, like me, tend to walk around with a large backpack filled with Pecan Pie Lärabars, gym shorts, and paperback copies of key Marxist texts (on second thought, that description may apply only to me), don’t wear your backpack while riding a crowded elevator. To make space, take the backpack off and set it on the ground between your feet. It’s not going anywhere. Nobody likes Lärabars enough to steal your bag.

Rule #5: Don’t hook up with other riders while riding the elevator. It’s one thing to encounter this while trying to ride the elevator in Carman at 3:00 a.m. on a Saturday, but it’s another to encounter it in the International Affairs Building at 2:30 p.m. on a Tuesday, which I have on more than one occasion. No one should have to see this while the sun is still shining. Besides, keeping one’s balance in an elevator while “distracted” is harder than one might think, and if there’s anything worse than having a person fall onto you mid-ride, it’s having two people fall onto you mid-ride.

Rule #6: Don’t hook up with yourself while riding the elevator. Keep your shaft to yourself while you’re in the shaft. No further explanation is necessary.

Rule #7: Don’t blast your music while riding the elevator. Look, I love Cardi B as much as anyone else, but the elevator is a sacred place; it’s a place to shut your trap, not to play songs by the Queen of Trap—especially at full volume.

Rule #8: Don’t JUUL. This rule is always applicable, but it is doubly important to follow while in the elevator.

Rule #9: Don’t block the doorway. Allow me to break it down for you: If you’re taking the elevator from the ground floor to the tenth floor, and someone else is taking it to the eighth floor, and another person is taking it to the sixth floor, and yet another person is taking it to the fourth floor, you will need to make room for them so that they can all exit the elevator. If you’re standing in front of the doorway, temporarily exit at each stop so that they can get off. You’ll be able to get back on immediately after they leave. I promise.

Rule #10: Strike a balance when operating the close-door button. After someone exits the elevator, don’t be afraid to hit the close-door button in order to expedite the elevator-riding process. But don’t be, like, too quick to hit it, you know? Wait for the person who is getting off the elevator to exit completely before you hit it. But don’t wait too long, either. It’s difficult to avoid pissing off either the person who’s getting off or the person who’s staying in the elevator with you, but I have no reason to think that it’s impossible.

Rule #11: Don’t be afraid to start a conversation. Far too often, Columbia students rush into the elevator, whip their phones out, and avoid contact with anyone else temporarily occupying the vehicle. To do so is to miss out on a great opportunity to get to know your fellow rider! If the person next to you is an old friend, ask her how she’s doing. If the person next to you is a stranger, remember that a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met and ask her how she’s doing! You won’t have time to say much more, as elevator rides tend to last somewhere between ten and thirty seconds, but there’s nothing wrong with a little friendly conversation!

Rule #12: Don’t talk too much. I said that there’s nothing wrong with a little friendly conversation. Too much friendly conversation is a problem. Don’t ask me about what my plans for the weekend are. Don’t ask me whether I’ve secured a summer internship yet. If you feel compelled to start a meaningful conversation, just assume that I’m running late to whatever my destination is. I probably am.

The fact that so many Columbia students, many of whom pride themselves on being “intelligent,” have failed to follow these previously unwritten rules of elevator etiquette is wrong on so many levels. It is my hope that this list, though far from comprehensive, will set us on the right path as students, as citizens of the world, and, of course, as lazy stair-haters.

Photo via Pixabay

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