Have you ever stepped into an elevator, perfectly prepared to mind your own business until your floor, when an absolute stranger strikes up a half-sincere conversation with you? Well, I have. I can’t recommend it.

During my arrival quarantine, I had zero human interaction. Yes, I was sharing my space with three other Barnard students. Yes, I was talking to my mother and various high school friends almost every day. But, genuine, face-to-face, I-can-see-the-whites-of-your-eyes, human interaction was entirely foreign to me. My suitemates and I would tiptoe around the suite, peeking out of our rooms to see if anyone had dared to go to the bathroom at the same time as us. So, naturally, after quarantine, my suitemates and I fell headfirst into a fast friendship, quickly spending most of our time together. Can you blame us? We were starved for novel interactions with other people. This is when I started to notice that students in my building talked to each other in the elevators.

The mere concept of elevator conversations was quite odd to me. Never in my life have I spoken to a stranger in an elevator. And all of a sudden, I was getting compliments on my PONY sweatshirt and my Treat People With Kindness beanie and asked what my name was from strangers in an elevator. I have always been taught to fear strangers (stranger danger, you know?) and these elevator conversations started to freak me out. Immensely. It got to the point that whenever I would get in the elevator, I would pray to Harry Styles that nobody would get in with me. The most awkward parts of my day were the two minutes I would spend in stilted silence with some, admittedly very nice, person who had commented on my laundry bag.

(It’s important that you all know that I’m someone who really hates strangers, generally, and this kind of interaction is my least favorite thing ever. I glare at people who make too much eye contact with me on the street. What are they looking at? My Scorpio energy?)

Then, things changed. No longer starved for conversation, strangers in the elevator started to avoid eye contact and conversation. Elevator conversations went back to “What floor?” and “Thanks [for holding the door].” This is what elevator conversations are meant to be, people. We don’t live in a quirky rom-com where besties or soulmates find each other in cramped metal boxes on their way to get a brunch sushi bowl from the Diana Center Café.

Unfortunately, this didn’t last for long. Now, my awkward elevator conversations are no longer with strangers, they’re with people from my classes, whose torsos are the only parts of them I’ve ever seen. I’ve suffered many weird, half-catch-up, half-killing-time-to-be-polite interactions with random breakout room acquaintances in the past weeks. With strangers, it’s mostly silent. With people I’ve sat in silence with about the readings we all clearly didn’t do, conversation flows.

Why? Why must the elevator create such a liminal conversation space? Why can’t we just return to that comfortable silence we’ve always had with strangers in elevators? Why must we force ourselves to have human interaction?

There is no answer to my questions. People are social creatures, according to my Psychology professor, and the global pandemic has greatly reduced our sociality. People want to be the main characters in an indie film who strike up a conversation with strangers and fall in love (platonic or otherwise). But, I don’t. I beg of you, strangers of the world, to decide between elevator conversations and blessed silence. I cannot step into another elevator, anxiously awaiting my fellow riders’ next move.

So, if you’re reading this, make a decision. Stop talking to me in elevators. I would greatly appreciate it.

An elevator opening to reveal absolute nothingness via Bwog Archives