Elevator’s Very Known Strangers

Life in a 36-floor apartment building – where elevator’s routine – is fascinating.

Each floor has ten apartments, so roughly a total of 360 apartments. Two each on the left and the right are the four elevators in the building. Each elevator can hold up to 1500 pounds; ten people may be the limit if you average 150 pounds each; then, there are strollers, carts, luggage, and bikes guzzling up the space.

In almost a decade of living in the same building, I haven’t seen a single instance where the elevator carried more than the permitted pounds of weight. You could figure this out by looking at how cramped the lifting device is.

The elevator queue is apparently long during peak hours. After the first person in line has pushed the cream button lighting it up, the rest would – from our positions in the queue – try to read the four little screens right above the elevator doors. We’d watch the ascending or descending red digits and adjust our necks to see which elevator lands first to a creaking halt. When the screen reads 1 – and amid a collective sigh – courtesy demands that we wait for the people already in it to exit like we do on subway trains. Ninety percent of the people in line would wait for the passengers to step out while the rest might show incredible urgency.


Most are known strangers in the world of the elevator: you may have seen them everywhere, all these years, but recognize them only in the shaft-cage. Here are five incidents that I’ll remember for a long time:

  1. If you see someone on a particular day, it’s unlikely that you’ll see the same person a second time in the same elevator. A ten-year-old boy was in the elevator for a while, cruising up and down in semi-peak hour. A lot of known strangers saw him. I’d seen him on my way to the grocery store. When I returned, he was standing at that very corner, staring at nothing. We see this kind of behavior on light rail trains, where people buy a $3 ticket to use the transport for the duration of its two-hour validity. As I was exiting at 6th, I smiled at him, and he answered a question I’d never asked: “This is my way of busting school stress.”
  1. When there was a line of about ten people at 6 pm, I saw this fine gentleman – perhaps a Fortune 500 company director – walk up to the first man in line. And he ended up being the first to walk into the elevator. Ironically, I was the tenth in line and all ten – including the gentleman – made it and though the nine of them were bruised at the man’s discourtesy, I was injured.
  1. At 3 pm, when it was not rush hour – and no soul around – the elevators looked tempting. I was hauling a cart full of groceries to take up to my floor. I stepped into the elevator, and when the door was closing, a child, whose footsteps I’d just heard, threw his hand in the narrowing gap of the closing door. The door now opened, and he stood there, holding it for his mother who’d possibly instructed him to while she was still 20 seconds away. When she appeared, she was pushing a stroller with a toddler in it, followed by her another son who was maneuvering a grocery cart double the size of mine. I made space for them which was a mistake. What else could I’ve done since their stroller, the cart, the mother, and her children had crunched me into a corner. I didn’t mind that there was no apology from the lady, but what I did mind was that their floor was the 29th and mine was the 6th; and we’re not discussing streets here. Well, it pained them as much making space for me by exiting at 6th with all their belongings. Once out, I held the door till they were back in the cage. I don’t know why I thanked the lady: I knew it would go unacknowledged.
  1. A genius got into the elevator on the second floor to go down to the first. He’d taken the ascending one, failing to notice the up arrow. The two men who were already in the elevator had stops at 36th and 6th. The man had no choice but whoosh all the way up to the top floor before swooshing back down to his destination. Pointedly, there are four staircase exits on each floor, and only ten counts of steps from second to first; the genius was brawny, too.
  1. In an elevator with six people, we were going down to the first floor. But, before we could exit the first, a lady moved in, pushing the button for a certain floor; she then held the door and said, “Sweetie, come quickly.” She wasn’t an alien, nor did she appear to believe that she was invisible; her Chanel attracting some of the trapped men inside. Since I’d met the Fortune gentleman only a week prior, I wondered if she was the Fortune lady. The two men, including me, who were stuck right behind her, had to wait until the chanelized Romeos exited. And guess what…there entered the Fortune man, alias, her sweetie.


Loyal to our very own elevators (Daily Prompt).

Propose a Scale to four elevators in one frame (Photo Challenge).

40 thoughts on “Elevator’s Very Known Strangers

  1. This was a fun post that to about something like elevators :). I have no Personal experiences with them. But I can connect them to ‘known strangers’ in métros.Thanks for sharing.

  2. Haha, sounds very much similar to the people I encounter here as well. Although I would add one more – the kid who presses the button for every single freaking floor and make the lift stop at each floor while I wait impatiently for the lift to get to my floor. Unfortunately mine is the 2nd highest floor in my block.

    Great post! 🙂

  3. what a great idea for a post – I love the originality and well – it was just nice to read this Mehesh. I love the “known strangers” angle – and this really gave me more of a feel for you as a writer and person. Also, it was just so interesting (and cool) to hear about life in building like this –

    and the only experience I have with waiting for the elevator was while staying in DC one weekend and the place was packed because of a hockey tournament (we were there for a different event). And whew – it was only a couple of days – but I have a few elevator memories in my head – a few rude people cut the lines or held the door while we were needing to get moving – and in our case – many of the parents were drinking heavily and so the smell on a few of the rides – – oh and by the way – I hate Chanel – well the #5 one I do – but you had me laughing with your Mr. and Mrs. Fortune highlights.

    have a great day – 🙂

    • Thanks a lot, P 🙂 I can understand your DC experience. Yesterday, I saw the Fortune guy – not in the elevator, fortunately. Great day to you, too 🙂

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  5. Wow, I don’t know how you do it, day after day. It’s bad enough for me on vacation(!) People can be so clueless and entitled and nowhere does it seem more ‘intimately apparent’ than in an elevator. There we all are and nobody speaking to one another(!) So I speak to them, but this causes apparent discomfort as well. Ah, well – better you than me, Mahesh! Fun post 😉 xo

    • Thanks a lot, Bela 🙂 Love your comment 🙂 From the truth of “intimately apparent” to the painful truth of “apparent discomfort” you’ve read this post exceptionally well 🙂 Much appreciated, my friend. xoxo

  6. Had to chuckle through this post, Mahesh. Riding the elevator is more entertaining than it sounds, and your encounters in your apartment showed just that – and I’m also inclined to think that it’s because of your engaging writing style 😉

    The one of the ‘genius’ taking the ascending elevator instead of the down one is actually me on quite a few occasions. Sometimes in my apartment, I’d come back from work and need to go up to my apartment. I’d get to the lift, look up and see the lift sitting at some floor higher up. Then, I’d have a brain fart and press the ‘Down’ button for the lift to come down 😀 Usually the lift opens empty and it will happily take me to my floor instead of going down to the basement.

    Your post also reminds me about lift etiquette. It baffles me as to why some people rush into a lift when they see it perfectly full – certainly there might be someone who wants to exit. With the Chanel lady, she did come across as quite self-absorbed to be honest. Maybe it’s due to the impatient nature in many of us today, or we just don’t like waiting much anymore and respect goes out the window.

    • “…we just don’t like waiting much anymore and respect goes out the window” – this is true. People are in a hurry – and most of them, I believe, are pretending 🙂 It looks cool to be on active mode but equally nagging when that compromises with basic social etiquette. Thanks, Mabel, for your interesting thoughts. Always a pleasure to hear from you. Good day! 🙂

      • ‘looks cool to be on active mode’ Think you hit the nail on the head there. I think that stems from the unconscious mind where many of us feel the need to be with someone or the need to belong – so we like to appear we have someone or some place to go. At the end of the day, that’s all a pretence facade. Great observation again, Mahesh 🙂

  7. 1. What an interesting set of characters you have described. And how sad the first one a young boy found travelling up and down the elevator to de-stress, So sad that a child should need to de-stress anyway, but it is becoming more the norm with the pressures in education today.. And even sadder he could not walk in some countryside air, ride a bike, or play football with his mates..

    2. And yes it matters now how finely dressed we are, it doesn’t mean we should not have manners..

    3. Courtesy should always be two ways.. Sad it was not returned by the lady.
    4. Big smiles.. I have done that before in a hotel failing to note the ascending arrows
    5. This too made me smile.

    Wonderful to read and I am made ever more grateful in reading about your flats how fortunate I am to live in a house..

    Wishing you a perfect day.. And Happy travelling in the escalators..
    Sue 🙂

    • Thanks, Sue, for your detailed comment. I thoroughly enjoyed it 🙂 “So sad that a child should need to de-stress anyway” – agreed, and painfully, this is fast becoming the norm. “I have done that before in a hotel failing to note the ascending arrows” – 🙂 🙂 *Smiling* Have a wonderful day 🙂

  8. What an intriguing post of day to day activity. Mahesh I am struck that you are always polite and the reason you thanked her is because you are clearly kind. You never know by your good deeds others may absorb some of the same kindness. It’s a life philosophy I try to uphold. Model the way.

  9. I was really laughing after I read about the man who went up all the way, only to realize that he misread the direction. It has happened with me a few a times at my office. Really enjoyed reading your observations!!! 🙂

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