A necessity in any and every urban environment. A measure of one’s standard of living. The acme of architectural design on multiple levels. One does not typically talk about elevators with these descriptors. And yet, here we are.
As a resident of Unit 2, I can safely say that the most vital aspect of my building is the elevator. Just like ancient civilizations and the internet, the elevator has its own culture, separate from that of campus life and dorm life. There are many formalities involving the elevator, some more important than others, but all equally necessary. Holding the door open, not leaving after pressing the button and making sure everyone has pressed their floor number are just a few. I only spend a fraction of my day in the elevator, however. In order to fully understand elevator culture, I would need to be on it for more than just a few minutes, riding up and down. So that’s why I decided to spend an entire day in the elevator.
If you were to graph the activity on any elevator, then you would notice spikes in the morning and afternoon. Living in the elevator, I realized that these spikes are a result of students leaving for classes and coming back. The sheer volume of people in the elevator at any point in time during the mornings and afternoons activated my claustrophobia. Even then, no matter how accurate that graph may be, the annoyance of the elevator stopping at every single floor is immeasurable. It caused a sort of nausea within me, making me feel like I was floating, but only every few seconds, I would fall back down just to float again. It was a hellish cycle that really pushed all of my buttons.
After the first few hours, activity slowed down and the elevator stayed still for a longer period of time. It was never still for more than a few minutes though, as inevitably there are those students who have classes at odd and unfortunate times, such as the 12 p.m. classes. Inevitably, there are also the few guilty pleasure-seekers taking the elevator from the second floor down to the ground floor since there are substantially fewer people using it, which in some demented way justifies their actions. Aside from that, though, it was a cyclical pattern up until 6 p.m., when students start flooding back in from their classes.
Elevator culture itself is infinitely more interesting than the motion of elevators going up and down in a building. There is an unspoken rule among the residents of the higher floors: if you are going anywhere within three floors of your current floor, whether that be three floors up or three floors down, it is immoral and frowned upon to take the elevator. There is no audible shame in taking the elevator, but the judging that happens in that box is brutal. The amount of stink-eye I saw getting dished out to those who went from the first floor to the ground floor during my day in the elevator was quite impressive.
Besides the semantics of elevator formalities, the elevator really is one of the most interesting locations in the residence halls. The overheard conversations between friends, the interactions between two strangers, or just the shenanigans that take place in them — such as dueting a song when the doors are closed and stopping when they’re open — make it an experience every time they are being used. Granted, some shenanigans are straight-up evil, such as pressing all the buttons after getting out, but even moments like those are memorable, for better or for worse.
On the surface, the elevator may seem like just another utility in the building. For some, this is exactly what it is. But all it takes is one day to realize just how much deeper the culture goes, as well as how ingrained and essential elevators are to life in the residence halls.
Contact Hamzah Alam at [email protected].