Don’t you just love taking the lift at work? Isn’t it special? That strained politeness that everyone feels while almost squashed together in the crowded space.
The awkwardness starts when the doors open and you have to make a decision as to whether to get in or not. If it’s half-empty, then it’s easy. You slip in and join the others. It’s more difficult when the doors open and it’s two-thirds (or more) full. Then it’s never really very clear. Should you get in? Wait for the next one?
Sometimes some noble soul throws you a lifeline. He or she says something like, “There’s room. Don’t worry. Get in.” What a relief. You smile and gingerly step in so as not to get right up somebody’s nose.
But then there are those other times when everybody avoids eye contact with you. There’s that sense of mild impatience – they’re uncomfortable themselves, after all, and would like to get to their floor as soon as possible – but no one’s throwing you a lifeline. No one’s giving you any guidance. And it’s then when you simply cannot freeze in panic, because that makes it worse. Then, you simply have to step forward boldly and find yourself a spot with as much dignity as you can. Or you have to smile and say, “Don’t worry – I’ll wait for the next one”.
But whichever of the two you decide, you have to do it quickly. If you pause too long, you are lost! If you pause too long, then what follows is horrid. Half-smiles. Throats being cleared. Nervous glances. Tiny beads of perspiration around people’s mouths. Mild impatience morphs into mild panic with little sprinkles of silent hysteria. You can see it in people’s eyes.
Don’t be that guy. The one who can’t decide whether to step in, or waive them on. Don’t be him.