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The Truth Behind Elevator Jokes

fear lift

CC Rubin Starset flickr

strangers in a lift

CC Elizabeth Buie flickr

Those suffering from claustrophia are living in fear being trapped while not having the possibilty to escape. Especially going into a lift can be a very hard step for people with a severe form of this anxiety. But oddly enough arent only these people in fear of elevators, but almost everybody - just for another reason.

The lift-situation is seen as a (socially) very difficult one to handle, but everybody has to deal it with it. Especially if an office, a flat, the doctor or any other important place is on the top floor of a building. But there are only three main situations that can normally occur in the approximately 30 seconds in an elevator: being alone, being in a lift with another person or being in a lift with more than one other person. So what should possibly happen?

The Elevator in Movies

Movie scenes in elevators almost always become very famous ones. With it, directors play with the social fear of using a lift. May it be an action scene, a romantic scene, a full horror movie which plays only in an elevator, love in a lift or very funny scenes - the lift is very often an underrated location. Movie scenes in evelvators are like ticking timebombs:  full of suspense will definitely happen something mind- or plot changing.

In contrast to real life where it is a hidden rule to never start a conversation in a lift, the actors naturally have to talk to each other. A typical b-grade elevator movie scenes looks as follows:

Background: Actor 1 (male) and Actor 2 (female) are about to begin an affair

  1. Actor 1 is in a lift, staring slightly upwards, while the doors are about to close.
  2. Actor 2 suddenly comes into the elevator, saying hello to actor 1.
  3. Both are now staring slightly upwards, while the elevator starts to go upwards.
  4. Unpleasant silence.
  5. Actor 2 is saying something very funny, provocative charming or funny to actor 1 (can be the other way around).
  6. Actor 2 (depends on who started the conversation) is first leaving the elevator.
  7. Actor 1 is smiling or looks surprised, while the doors are closing again.

Yes, the "movie" lift has something frightening (Devil), thrilling (Sky Fall), brutal (Drive), erotic (Fifty Shades of Grey), dramatic (I Origins) or something very funny (The ugly Truth, Liar Liar) . In contrast to real life, its for sure that there happens something and thats what makes the audience feel amused. Even if a character is only saying a normal sentence, in a viewers eyes, it surpasses alboundaries of embarrassment.  

No matter which situation comes in a lift - awkward silence is particularly what happens in real life:

alone in lift

CC Elizabeth Buie flickr

Being in a Lift Alone

Its never sure if a person is getting into the luxus of being alone in a lift. Then he is free to check himself in the mirror, clean up the hair and clothes to freshly get out of the lift. In this case, the ride resembles a short visit to the toilet - just without the toilet.

But the uneasy feeling that this peace can get destroyed every second by someone else, who comes into the lift, makes being alone in a lift , not at all easy. If possible, young and fit females should in general (and particularly in buildings they have never been before) prefer to take the stairs instead of a lift. Especially if they want to avoid meeting a nervous male in it, who starts talking, because he just can't handle the silence like a gentleman.

lift situation

CC Ken Lund flickr

Being in a Lift With One Other Person

Being in a lift is not only connected with the fear of being on a limited space with someone else we dont know, but also with a person we know occassionally. This is probably the worst social situaition someone with a lift "anxiety" is imagining. Should I say "hello", start a quick conversation or just be silent? But what if my boss comes into the lift? On the other side is being in a lift with a close friend or partner connected with having a lot of fun. Staring into the mirror while doing crazy grimaces, kissing each other or doing funny poses: being in a lift with one other person can't evoke more contrarily emotions.

Known or unknown - the feeling really depends on the relationship between the two persons.

Two unknown persons sharing a lift for a few seconds can be seen as a very normal situation, because both have a destination: they want to reach their office, their flat or whatever. Questions like "Which floor?" for the one standing next to the buttons can defuse the situation.
lift anxiety

CC Paul Keller flickr

Being in a Lift With Many Other Persons

The internet is full of "Things to do in a Lift" lists, all stuffed with ridiculous and unrealistic suggestions or better:  only mental games. Overacting in a lift is a no-go and everybody knows it. So how is the situation being in a lift with many other persons? Honestly: its the best situation in terms of "fear" in a lift. People are probably asking themselves, if there is enough space, where they should look at or how they should communicate that they want to ride to the 4th floor, if another person accidently pushed the button for 3th floor. Being in a lift with many other persons - that also applys to being in a lift with one other person - also means that it doesn't feel like "being alone on toilet" anymore. But even then, many people in a lift means also, that the responsibility (to talk, to say hello or not say hello, to ask "which floor") can get authorized to someone else. Even then it would be nice to avoid staring at each other, make room for new "passengers" or yes - to play the liftboy from necessity.

Why There is a Mirror in Every Lift

First and basically only reason: Because it lets the elevator look bigger, which is good for people with real claustrophobia. Second and basically no reason: to check teeth, smile, hair, clothes

Watch some funny elevator pranks on Youtube

Featured Image CC Scott Beale/ Laughing Squid flickr
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