Elevator Etiquette – Part II


6 minute read

June 23, 2014

If you remember the first installment of “Elevator Etiquette,” then you are truly a Toronto Realty Blog diehard, and we should get together for a beer, as soon as humanly-possible…

It’s hard to believe that it was six years ago that I wrote the original blog, which I consider to be one of my all-time favourites.  It has very little to do with real estate, but you don’t have to have lived in a condo to understand elevator etiquette!  We’ve all taken an elevator before at least once…

Last night, after staring at my shoelaces for 90 seconds, rather than converse with the person next to me, I realized that my original blog post barely scratched the surface of human beings’ terrible elevator etiquette…


If you never read the original blog from June 9th, 2008, you can check out “Elevator Etiquette” and see how my blogs weren’t always 1,600 words apiece…

Indeed, a lot has changed since 2008.

Toronto Realty Blog was in its second year, David Miller was the Mayor of Toronto, and real estate bears were saying, “The 40% collapse is coming!  Just watch!  There’s no way the average price of a Toronto home will stay at $379,000!”

But you know what hasn’t changed?

Our sudden inability to speak English when we wait for the elevator…

All over the city, buttons are pressed, and people turn into unemotional robots.

We suddenly bite our tongue, grit our teeth, and hope to GOD that the elevator door opens soon so that we don’t have to make eye contact, conversation, or even acknowledge the existence of the person standing next to us.

Whether you’re outside the elevator waiting for it to arrive, or inside the elevator waiting for your floor, you KNOW that you turn into a different person when you have a stranger standing next to you.

The 2008 version of “Elevator Etiquette” looked at three different phenomenons:

1) How you choose to acknowledge the person standing next to you, when you actually choose to acknowledge them.

2) What you do in the elevator, rather than talk to that person.

3) Bothersome elevator instances, such as the person who uses the elevator, but lives on the 2nd floor.

Well today, I want to talk about the first phenomenon, and do so in great, great detail.

It’s absolutely amazing the lengths people will go to in order to avoid making idle chatter with the person standing next to them, or even any sort of acknowledgment that this person is indeed a human, and not a mannequin.

We all do it.

Don’t pretend for a second you won’t identify with the following list.

And if you don’t identify with this list, then feel free to utilize any of these.

Here are the most common things we do while waiting for the elevator, or in the elevator, rather than talking to a stranger:

The Floor Show

I’m not trying to re-hash content from the 2008 version, but “The Floor Show” is a classic.

It’s easy, folks.

Just stare at the floor, and pretend like there’s a tractor-beam originating from your pupils, and making unbreakable contact with the floor.

A poker player can hold a pose for three minutes, without swallowing hard, blinking, wiggling his nose, or moving a muscle in his face, so why can’t we stare at the floor for 120 seconds straight while the person next to us is probably thinking, “I’m so glad this person isn’t making small talk with me?”

And don’t be afraid to really milk it either.  Throw in a long sigh, or a furrow of the brow, just to show the stranger that you’re not actually asleep standing up, but rather you’re focused on that goddam floor, and all your other emotions and bodily-functions are still in check.

Cell Phone

Pretend for two seconds like:

a) You’re not on P3
b) You do get reception down there

Pull out your phone, and start thumbing through it.  Pretend like you’re going through your Inbox, as though Rogers’ cell towers are pinging your iPhone thirty feet below the surface of the street.

Even though you’re probably staring at the screen-saver of your cat, act as though you’re really intently reading an email from your boss.

Give a “hmmmphf” as if to say, “Well, I don’t enjoy reading this, but it’s what I have to do right now, at this particular juncture.”

Don’t be afraid to shake your head, or gasp, or bite your tongue.

You’re reading a really important email, right here in the underground parking lot lobby, and you’ll be damned if you’re not going to express yourself – even if there’s a stranger standing next to you, who is currently tying his shoelaces to avoid conversation with you…

Inanimate Object

This is one of my personal favourites.

Whatever you have at your disposal – pretend like it is all of a sudden the greatest thing in the world.

Do you have a loose thread on your shirt?  Well boy-howdy!  Now it’s on!

Pull that thread!  Wrap it around your thumb!  Stretch it out!  Twang it like a good ‘ole gui-tar strang!!

Find a piece of paper in your pocket?  Play with it!  “Bread, Milk, Eggs, Dr. Pepper, Green Giant Beans, Easter Chocolate 99% Off In June,” well goddamit, that’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen all day!  Is it a blank piece of paper?  Well pretend it’s a fortune cookie, and laugh out loud as though you don’t have a care in the world that a stranger is standing next to you, and you’re ignoring that person.

Have a fingernail?  BITE IT!

Pluck an eyelash?  WISH ON IT!

Scar on your arm that you’ve never seen before?  INVESTIGATE!

Show the person next to you that you’re far too busy to converse with them when there’s all this interesting stuff one inch from your skin…


This pairs well with “The Floor Show.”

If pulled off correctly, yawning, in conjunction with the floor show, will convince the person standing next to you that you had no clue he or she was even there.

Most of the time, you don’t need to pretend to yawn.  Just open your mouth, think “yawn,” and it’ll happen.

In fact, I think that’s how I know that God exists…


Save yourself some time, seriously.

You’re a busy guy or gal, and time is money.

So when you’re riding up the elevator, and you’re passing by 1, then 2, then 3, and heading to 12, make sure you pull out your key chain, and fiddle for the house-key.

Flip by the car key, the office key, the storage locker key, and find that house key.

Once you find it, grab it, and flick the rest of the key chain just for effect, so that the person next to you knows that you weren’t able to talk to him or her, because you were too busy getting your key ready, so you could open your front door.

If this isn’t a sign of discomfort among strangers, I don’t know what is…

Unbuttoning The Winter Jacket

This is the same thing as searching for the house key – you’re merely looking for an activity that takes four seconds, so you can look otherwise engaged, and you make each button seem as though it were fastened with glue.

Button-one, button-two, button-three, button-four.  DONE!

There, now I can step off this elevator, and be soooooooo much further ahead of the game…

The Red Button

This is essentially a modern spin on “The Floor Show,” but it’s a bit more involved, and far more intense.

When you push the elevator button, it lights up – most often red, but sometimes orange, or a hybrid yellow in older buildings that have yet to get with the times.

If you so choose, you can stare at this button, and try to “help it” turn back to grey, or “unlit,” if you will.

“The Floor Show” involves acting like you’re spacing out, tired, without a care in the world, and unaware of your surroundings.  “The Red Button” is similar, but in a way, the exact opposite.  Here, you’re focused, involved, and almost scrutinizing the red button as if to say, “How the hell is the elevator not here yet?  If it takes any longer, I might have to say, ‘Great weather today,’ to this dude standing next to me.”

Tying Your Shoelaces

This is probably a last resort, but when you’re into minute #3 of waiting for the elevator, and the only alternative is turn to the person next to you and say, “Long day?” this one can come in handy.

Reading The Paper

Who actually reads in 30-second increments, other than those people pretending like they’re otherwise engaged while waiting to get from the fourth floor to the ground floor?

And it’s easy to spot a faker on a long elevator ride.  Seriously – have you ever seen somebody turn the page of a newspaper while reading in the elevator?  Don’t forget that page A1 has a large feature photograph, and a masthead.  There’s only about 60 seconds of total reading on there, so if you’re going from “G” up past the 40th, that person standing next to you is merely pretending to read the paper…

The Lean

If you see somebody leaning against the wall while waiting for the elevator, or leaning on the railing inside the elevator cab, they’re not nearly as comfortable as they look.

In fact, they’re so self-conscious and uncomfortable, that they’re trying desperately to look like they don’t have a care in the world.


When somebody looks up in the elevator, they’re really, really uncomfortable.

We all know what’s up there: nothing!

We don’t need to look up.  But when we do, it’s because we hope there’s a TV on the ceiling that can keep us busy for 70 seconds.

And if that person holds their gaze longer than 1.5 seconds, it’s because they realized, “Oh yeah, there’s nothing up here but a ceiling, but I need to make it seem as though I was searching for something, so I’d better keep focused for a few more seconds…”

Folks, I’m not anti-social.

I’m just a realist.

Whether you want to admit it or not, people hate making small talk in elevators, and will stop at nothing to avoid it.

Seeming like you’re busy is the best way to avoid idle chatter.

And while we’re at it – raise your hand if you turn the music off on your iPod at the gym, but leave your headphones in your ears, bob your head like you’re listening to tunes, and then eavesdrop on conversations.

No, seriously – raise your hand.  I know you know what I’m talking about…

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

Find Out More About David Read More Posts

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  1. amral

    at 7:32 am

    I have thw perfect way to empty the elevator. Start preaching aloud from the bible

  2. Amelia

    at 4:15 pm

    First off – you’re wrong about the lean. It’s very comfortable.Second, a guilty pleasure of mine is making small talk when the elevator is nice and full. Catches everyone off guard and is usually an easy way to get a laugh.

  3. Chroscklh

    at 9:11 am

    I on elevator yesterday and I say to lady “hello, nice night, yes?!” she say “sorry I have to take this” she pull out wallet from purse and hold up to ear. She so committed she has conversation as change falls out.

  4. daniel

    at 10:43 am

    I moved to Toronto last year and was surprised to discover how cold the whole elevator thing is here. In other cities (Mtl, NYC) you definitely get an acknowledgement from people. Many chat, most at least says good morning, good evening, or some sort of acknowledgement. People in Toronto seem to be friendly once you get them chatting, but work really hard at maintaining the ice grill at all times in public.

  5. Rob

    at 3:45 pm

    Oh god, you don’t know how good we’ve got it in Toronto until you go abroad. In Shanghai (a supposedly modern city), people routinely spit on the floor, and not just a little excess saliva, we’re talking huge oysters here folks. It’s not uncommon to find people smoking in the elevator, despite signage that says otherwise. Try and tell them it’s inappropriate and enjoy the smoke being directed right at your face for the rest of the ride. Thirty storey buildings will regularly have one or two elevators that are under maintenance. Add in the fact that residential apartments are regularly used for high density offices, and the volume the elevator has to handle will make you consider that 9 storey stair climb might not be such a bad idea. Finally even though the elevators will be busier than the 400 on a long weekend, NO ONE waits for the people to get off before getting on, just imagine red rover but with 9-5ers in suits.

  6. Andrea

    at 10:42 am

    uh-oh, i’m one of the looker-uppers. I’m just gonna check with my therapist to see if there is treatment for this….yup, apparently the cure is to say hello!

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