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Ask Mister Manners, Thomas P. Farley: ‘Can I Hit The Door-Close Button On An Elevator?’

The elevator in my high-rise gets crowded easily, often stopping on every floor. During this era of social distancing, it’s suddenly of great concern. Am I justified ignoring yells for ‘hold the elevator’?

Etiquette tips on how to interact in today’s world. Have a question for Mister Manners? Send your queries to info@whatmannersmost.com and look for replies in the coming weeks. 

ROOM FOR ONE MORE?

Q: I live in a high-rise with a diverse mix of residents, from recent college graduates to retirees. The elevator is slower than molasses and gets crowded easily, often stopping on every floor. During normal times, this is admittedly a pain. But during this era of social distancing, it’s suddenly of great concern. On more than one occasion, I’ve found myself pushing the “door close” button even when I hear someone running down the hall yelling “Hold the elevator!” Is my action justifiable?

A: In a perfect world, when an elevator became too crowded for your liking, you could simply step off and wait until a vacant one arrives moments later. And yet, from what you’ve described, chances of your gliding into an elevator that remains empty as it whisks you to your destination are slim to none. 

For as long as we are dealing with this pandemic, gone are the days when it’s socially passable for a would-be passenger to announce: “Everyone inhale, I’m getting on!” 

Therefore, if they haven’t already, building management must establish new guidelines for fair and safe use of the elevator — starting with a maximum occupancy number measured in single, not double digits. To dissuade those who might attempt to charm their way on board, decals on the floor could indicate a space for each rider to stand. Once those spaces are filled, the elevator would be de facto at capacity.

Having an officially sanctioned passenger limit erases the shame from your flick of the “door close” button. In such a case, you’d simply be following the rules. And further, by helping the elevator get to its destination sooner, you’re freeing it to be dispatched for its next round of poky pick-ups.

Yet, that still leaves us with a problem of supply and demand…an overtaxed elevator incapable of efficiently serving the needs of all residents.

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You’ve mentioned the building includes a broad array of ages. Priority ridership should be given to anyone with a mobility issue. In the name of chivalry, an able-bodied person (regardless of gender) should relinquish a spot aboard the elevator to let a non-able-bodied person ride instead. 

For those well enough to do so, taking the stairs may be the win-win option. Apart from the obvious fitness benefits, climbing flights so others don’t have to is more socially redeeming than 45 minutes on an elliptical machine ever could be.

Ask Mister Manners: 'Can I Hit The Door-Close Button On An Elevator?
Photo by Russ Ward via Unsplash

EXCUSE ME, THERE’S A LINE

Q: On more than one occasion, I’ve seen people cut their way into lines to enter grocery and big-box hardware stores ahead of people who have been waiting. What’s the appropriate way to ensure others anticipate their turn?

A: Oh, for the days when going to the supermarket did not require waiting in a queue that looks imported from Disney World. And yet, such is the reality for so many at this time. Fortunately, most stores have a staff member posted at their entry to ensure the orderly coming and going of customers. They are not infallible, though, and it’s up to all of us to ensure would-be cutters do not disregard those who have been waiting patiently. 

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Ideally, the person immediately behind the line jumper should provide a gentle reminder to the effect of: “I’m sorry, I know you couldn’t have realized this, but the line actually begins back there.” 

When the cutter implores: “Would you mind terribly if I went ahead of you?” the answer should be: “Not at all — as long as you get the okay from every person behind me first.” 

That should stop the cutting in its tracks, but if it does not, calmly find a store employee to take charge of the situation. Remember: being cut in line should not push your own blood pressure over the line.

Mister Manners, Thomas P. Farley, is a nationally regarded expert who appears regularly in the media to discuss modern-day etiquette dilemmas — from how to split a check fairly to how to get a word in edgewise. Follow Thomas on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And for more insights, listen to his brand-new podcast, “What Manners Most,” which will be focused exclusively on Coronavirus-related etiquette for the foreseeable future.

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