The Awkward Box

Elevators are an interesting thing. When you live on a building that’s more than a few stories high, you pretty much have to use them any time you want to do anything. Everyone else who lives in your building has to use them, too. For the most part, you have no idea who these other people in your building are, but the elevator forces you to interact in the most awkward of ways.

When you first hit the call button for the elevator and someone else walks up, there is always the uncomfortable half-smile and nod. There’s really nothing to say; the most you can hope for in terms of meaningful dialogue is something along the lines of:

“Hey, how are you doing?”
“Good, just waiting for the elevator.”
“Oh cool, me too.”
Awkward silence.

The awkwardness intensifies when you actually get in the elevator. Now you are in a confined space with someone you have nothing to talk about with, and the seconds stretch out into mini-eternities. I have a theory that time slows down in elevators in some kind of cosmic joke just to make my life more uncomfortable.

Even better, German elevators in particular happen to have been designed by the same people who brought you sardine cans and matchboxes. Seriously, cramming six strangers into a broom closet and riding to the 19th floor is one of the most tense situations you can imagine. And yet, for all this, you still smile and say goodbye when another person steps out. It’s the same tone you use when you have just shared a moment, but in this case all you shared was standing too close to one another and trying to avoid eye contact. It truly is bizarre.