When you’re in an open space with a group of strangers, a party for instance, and there is a pause in the conversation it is referred to as an “awkward silence.” When you get on an elevator everyone is quiet and usually staring down at the floor (or their phone). Any sound on an elevator is awkward and typically uncomfortable for most people. This dichotomy has always puzzled me. Why is silence preferred in one awkward situation and frowned upon in another?
I am introverted by nature and not usually the boisterous one who will jump into small talk with any old stranger. However, for some reason I find it extremely entertaining to be the one who causes awkward stress on elevators. It’s as if my alter ego knows the pain of speaking out will last only a few minutes – the length of time until everyone on the elevator exits and parts to go their separate ways.
So how does this manifest itself? Most of the time my attempts to discomfort people are humorous in nature. A few examples:
Stranger: “I see you on the elevator almost every day. What do you do for a living?”
Me: “I am a professional clown fighter. I know 43 ways to kill a clown.”
Goofy woman in all yellow dress enters elevator. She “accidentally” hits 4 floors of buttons between us and the lobby.
Goofy Woman: “Oh! I’m so sorry. Please don’t kill me.”
Me: “I only kill people I am going to eat, and I don’t like bananas.”
Woman enters elevator wearing Michigan State T-Shirt. She turns around and the back reads “Today is game day at Michigan State”
Me: “Who are they playing?”
Me: “No, who?”
Me: “Second Base”
Other times I intentionally try to creep people out by appearing serious.
In a very crowded, full elevator…
Me: “I bet you’re all wondering why I’ve gathered you here today?”
Ever notice how no one wants to make eye contact on the elevator?
When I am the last to get on an elevator and it is packed I like to stand with my back to the doors and look at everyone…and see how many I can make eye contact with. Sometimes, if ones looks up and sees me, I will put my finger to my mouth in the common “shhhhh” motion.
Once again, crowded elevator, everyone looking at ground or staring at phone.
I pickup my phone and act like I am speaking to someone.
Me: “No! The doctor says it’s not contagious unless you are within a couple of feet of me.”
And that, my friends is how an introvert entertains himself. Truth be told, many times we all end up laughing and acknowledging the awkwardness of it all. There are, however, a few folks who will avoid getting on the elevator with me at the office.
If you’re curious and want to hear about more of these always unplanned incidents I share them on my weekly newsletter – under the heading “Jeff’s Fun on Elevators“.