Elevator Tetris

6 Jan

Had I not gotten a degree in theater, I’d have aggressively pursued sociology.  …Well, the fun parts of it anyway. 

I’m a people-watcher.   I love to study them, the way they move, their quirky, inexplicable habits.  Trying to capture these details with my own body is my way of immersing myself in the study of people and of society and is one of my favorite parts of being an actor.  And it is for these reasons that I just adore watching office folk.

I have an office job by day because I need something to help feed my theater habit at night.  It’s a cruel, addictive cycle.  In my time amongst cubicles, elevators, and important titles, I am continually amused by the society that has been created there.  I am an outsider – a Jane Goodall, throwing herself into a world to live amongst these creatures and to study their interactions.

One of my favorite parts of the office is Elevator Space Relations.  This is true in any elevator scenario with more than one person, but I find it particularly interesting at the office. 

I was heading down from the top floor today and joined the 5pm elevator party just after a particularly high-level executive. 

Before we got on, however, he did me the good service of pretending to be interested in how I was today and I did the same for him.  I told him I was good and he told me he was good.  This is another fun one for me…because let’s face it: when anyone asks that question who isn’t your best friend or family member, they don’t really want an honest answer.  I totally felt like junk today.  I came in to the office to see how long I could make it because I’m a moron.  When he asked how I was, an honest answer would have been something like, “Oh, I’ve been better.   My head was a giant, disgusting hot air balloon filled with evil pixies smacking their wands on my frontal lobe and making it through this day was no small feat but I was too afraid to call off and look like a flake.”

Something told me that would have made the last 10 floors even more awkward. 

And so we stood in silence…the entire time from the top of the building to the bottom.   There’s only so long one can stare at the blinking number at the top of an elevator before they feel like an idiot.

It’s like we all got together one day and decided that there wasn’t enough time between point A and point B on an elevator and that since no one knows how many people may join on the way up or down, there is little possibility for discussion outside of the weather and the number of days ’til Friday.  So we just stopped talking altogether. 

My next favorite thing is how beautifully people will align themselves in an elevator.  It’s like one big spatial relations puzzle.  Every time someone new enters the picture, people in the elevator, without talking or making eye contact, will naturally work together to adjust themselves so that they leave as much room for a personal bubble as possible for everyone involved.

 It’s like the bathroom stall game, where if there are three and the nearest one has someone in it, you go to the far one.  Who made up these rules? 

I’ll admit, I like to rebel.  Sometimes when someone asks me how I am, I actually tell them.  And sometimes, I actually follow-up when they lie and tell me they’re good just to see if I can shake a human answer out of them.    Furthermore, I sometimes make people uncomfortable by choosing the stall directly beside them

I get myself through my day job with these little games.  I’ll admit that just a few days ago there were 3 people joining me on an elevator ride and I didn’t move from my space.  Yes, I felt the air thick with anticipation.  I felt their discomfort with the fact that there was not even spacing between the 3rd and 4th temporary members of the steel ride society but I was comfortable and deemed that everyone had an adequate amount of room.  And then an amazing thing happened: everyone else adjusted to me. 

I felt powerful.  I felt like an elevator goddess, directing human traffic with my mind.  I was the awkward T shaped tetris piece and everyone had to start a new row to adjust for my addition to the stack.  It was glorious.

I think I’ll start to use these powers for my rise in human society.  I will be the immovable force around which others must accordingly adjust themselves.   And slowly but surely, I will make my way to the top of the corporate world.  One awkward elevator ride at a time.♣



8 Responses to “Elevator Tetris”

  1. shelbyisrad January 7, 2011 at 12:56 am #

    Elevators make me crazy!! In my apartment it makes me so mad how many people just blatantly ignore me! Like HELLO I am a human being you can talk to me I won’t eat you!!
    But I’m totally gonna start using some of your tactics and really shake the elevator up 🙂


    • Jackie January 7, 2011 at 9:15 am #

      You should really give it a try 😉 It’s so funny the things we have programmed ourselves to do.

      btw, thanks for noting your first “schedule post” on your blog – I’m new to WordPress and am trying to sort through the capabilities. I always end up blogging so late at night but I realize now that I can blog at night for the next morning’s post. Thanks!


      • shelbyisrad January 7, 2011 at 11:02 am #

        You’re welcome!
        I don’t remember now but someone else did it and I was like “Hey! Thats a good idea!”
        Sadly it seems not a lot of people realize I post unless I tweet or facebook about it when they’re awake so I ended up having to do some advertising that I had posted


  2. Lori January 7, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    But what if they all think that you’re just an inconsiderate jerk for not moving?!

    Anyway, if we’re thinking sociologically… pay attention to how close men will stand to other men, women to other women, or how the opposite sexes react.


  3. Jackie January 7, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    I was so excited for you to read this. Can’t wait til you have that Masters 😉

    I think it’s important to note that I don’t crowd anyone – I simply don’t make perfect shapes when people enter (sometimes). So, for example, when it’s me and one other person, it’s not necessary that we be evenly spaced in the center of the elevator in a straight line, and the same for three people making a perfect triangle. I make sure everyone has enough room – I just sometimes go against the grain to shake it up. 🙂

    Thanks for the note on gender – I’ll keep an eye out for it.


  4. Kate January 12, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    Awesome post. I think about elevator social dynamics way too much.


    • Jackie January 12, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

      Thanks! Stopped by your page (I couldn’t possibly resist a link with cake in it). I really love it… not just because it’s witty and well-written but because it’s just so darn insightful.


  5. Jenny Ketcham January 18, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    I think I must be a natural born rebel of somesort, because, though I do give people space on my elevator ride to work (in the parking garage…the “outdoor” element may have something to do with it…there is always the weather to talk about) I usually make eye contact for a moment, smile and if they smile back, I make some sort of comment to them. I have had a number of very nice, friendly, albeit short, conversations with any number of people I will probably never see again. My tendency to chat may have something to do with my theater background, as well…doing the tech end of things (costume/wardrobe) I can spend inordinate amounts of time by myself, steaming clothes, repairing them, etc, and so I find I savor any interaction I can get. I do get your points, though, and enjoyed them.


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