I love awkward elevator chat. This is where I break the code of elevator silence and get other elevatorees to talk. It seems to be an inherently awkward time, enclosed in a small space, often physically closer to other people than you are any other time during your workday (certainly true as far as my office is concerned); many people are hiding behind whatever they’re doing on their cell phones. But it’s such a great opportunity for a moment of connection, even if it’s pretty trivial.
I stepped into an elevator with two guys in it the other day, and whatever they were discussing, the only part of it I caught was one guy saying, “We’ll figure it out.” We were going a couple of floors down, so there wasn’t that much elevator time. Shortly before the doors opened at our destination, I said, “You’ll totally figure it out.” They both chuckled and said, “Yeah, you’re right!” in enthusiastic and amused voices. Winning. Side note: I think we all need to be reassured from time to time that we’ll figure it out.
I love holding the elevator door for someone when they’re not expecting it. It’s a chance to surprise someone, hopefully in a non-creepy, non-scary way. I did this today on my way to my therapy appointment. I was approaching the bank of elevators and the Up elevator opened its doors. A woman was approaching from the opposite direction, and let’s be honest, there was plenty of time for me to just hit my floor and move on up. Instead, though, I pressed the hold button and waited for her. She seemed both surprised and appreciative, and our conversation parted with thanks and wishes for a pleasant day. Winning.
I don’t really love small talk in general, but I do like it when it can make people’s day a little brighter. Sometimes it’s just that little bit of a human connection that people need, yet like in a dusty, tumbleweed-ridden desert, it’s as hard to find as an ocean. Sometimes awkward elevator chat is just a sincere smile and, “Hello. How are you today?” It might incur the bare minimum of polite reply from the other person. Sometimes, it’s “So, what floor do you work on? Oh, really? Is there anything exciting on your floor?” I’m curious like a cat sometimes, and I often wonder about the people in the building. Usually the answer is “Nope,” and we chuckle about that.
Sometimes I even start the conversation like a game show host, with “Hey, it’s time for Awkward Elevator Chat!” It kind of freaks people out, I think, that someone is talking in the elevator. I think they quickly realize that I’m harmless and well-intentioned, if a little odd. They usually smile, at least.
I just want to make people pause, smile, laugh, or think. That’s it. That’s winning at awkward elevator chat.