The Ups and Downs of Elevator Oddness

How many times have we walked into an elevator in the middle of an intense conversation just to shut up as soon as we pass the sliding-door threshold? Why do we separate from each other and then strike up the conversation again as soon as we exit the elevator? We gaze at our phones. We watch the numbers go tick-tick-tick. We even just stare at the door. Why do we do these things?

Dr. Lee Gray of the University of North Carolina has an answer: “The lift becomes this interesting social space where etiquette is sort of odd,” says Gray.

“You don’t have enough space,” adds Babette Renneberg, a psychologist in Berlin, We’re awkward, in other words, because crowded elevators violate the Western concept of personal space. Whereas Arabs, for example, will get on an elevator and stand close together while talking, even if they’re the only two people on the elevator, we’re almost obsessed with separating as much as possible.

There are all kinds of theories about how people behave in an elevator. Some contend that five people in an elevator will unconsciously adopt the shape of pips on a die. Others say that the reason we’re so subdued and awkward is that we don’t want to be seen as threatening or harassing in any way. Careers might be forever changed, or even lost, if a stray hand accidentally brushes against someone in an inadvertently inappropriate manner.

Gray also asserts that there is another reason we’re uneasy: lack of control. Sure, we push the buttons to choose our floor but, when we’re on the way, we are completely at the mercy of the equipment. We know there are safeguards. We know the little sign says the elevator can hold much more weight than is currently on it. We also know, however, that it’s a long, long way down, and that frightens us. Then, there’s the little problem of what to do if the elevator gets stuck between floors, especially if it’s after hours and most everyone else has gone home.

One New Yorker named Nick White recently spent nearly two days trapped inside an elevator. He even had to pry open the door and use the yawning shaft as a bathroom. Even today, knowing that statistics show his was an unusual case, it’s in the back of his mind every time he gets in an elevator. In fact, his ordeal was so damaging to him that he hasn’t returned to work since. He agrees with Gray that elevators are creepy and similar to a tomb in construction.

The fear and awkwardness apply even more in outside glass elevators. People who are afraid of heights now have a second anxiety to contend with. Also, knowing that modern elevators approach speeds of 40 mph makes us fearful. In a car, we have seat belts to protect us; in an elevator, on the side of a building or inside it, we have no such safeguards.

Start Elevator Keeps Up With the Times

When Start Elevator came into being 22 years ago as a family-owned and -operated business, its ownership was committed to customer satisfaction, both by providing fine workmanship and using only high-quality products. Ever since, the company has continued to live by these basic precepts.

Part of the company’s dedication to quality includes using only the most up-to-date components and products in an effort to modernize every elevator with which they work.

From Ancient Times to Modern Day

Elevators have progressed mightily from the primitive, animal-driven platforms of ancient Greece. In the 11th century, for example, Spanish Moors used them as military tools. In the 21st century, elevators are sophisticated, high-speed transporters used by millions of people every day.

When he wasn’t running naked through the streets of Athens shouting, “I have found it!,” Archimedes spent his time thinking great, scientific thoughts. In 236 B.C., as reported by the Roman architect Vitruvius, Archimedes built an elevator that he could use to bring items inside his house in Syracuse. Almost 800 years after that, Egyptians built similar devices for the temple now known as St. Catherine’s Monastery.

Other than Louis XVI using a human-powered elevator in the Palace of Versailles, things didn’t change for roughly another 1,000 years. Even in 1823, when two British architects, named Burton and Homer, constructed what they called an “ascending room” as a tourist attraction, elevators were largely curiosities or tools and playthings for the most important or wealthy people.

The first truly modern advance in elevator construction occurred in 1835, with the development of the steam-powered model in England. In 1852, Elisha Otis completed his work on the invention that would change elevator technology forever. Popular lore, which includes song lyrics, tells us that “Otis made the elevator go up,” but this is a misconception. In reality, Otis’s invention kept elevators from going down. He invented a braking system that would keep an elevator’s contents, including passengers, safe. Before this invention, elevators were never very tall because no one wanted to fall, either off or in them. With Otis’s invention, modern skyscrapers became practical and, by 1857, Otis’s eponymous company was building and producing steam-powered elevators for the ever-taller buildings springing up around the United States.

In the 1880s, electric elevators made their debut, having been developed by a German inventor named Werner von Siemens. American inventor Alexander Miles patented the American version of Siemens’s invention in 1887. Thomas Edison, who was a champion of direct current, helped in the development of American electric elevator motors, which, at that time, were all DC because it was much easier to control than alternating current. It’s a shame that Otis himself died from diphtheria in 1861; he could have seen all the innovations and developments that have taken place over the last 153 years.

In the beginning, for example, elevators needed operators to stop the cars at the right floors. In 1915, the Otis company invented a method for automatically stopping. Elevator speeds had increased to the point that human reflexes weren’t able to cope safely. Since then, geared traction and hydraulic elevators have further improved the technology, and, in smaller buildings of 20 or fewer stories, so have machine-roomless models, which house the works that drive the elevator in the shaft itself instead of on the roof. In the world of the 21st century, observation elevators, sky lobbies, automated microprocessor controls and even remote monitoring and control systems have all contributed to the development of the elevator. At the pinnacle of modern elevator technology, cars can zoom at speeds approaching 40 mph. They include pressure control systems and other gadgets, such as anti-whistling and anti-vibration technology. The pressure controls alleviate ear popping and other such conditions that occur more than 1,000 feet in the air.

Start Elevator makes it its business to be fully acquainted with all such technologies and strives to incorporate as many as possible on all of its modernization projects. Such commitment to knowledge and training also enables the company to do all of its repairs effectively. The company might be family-run, but it always endeavors to provide big-company service to its discerning clientele. The company’s long-term plans include expanding the customer base, striving to be industry-leading by training all of its personnel, including all management, to be hands-on, both in dealing with customers and in performing the company’s work.