I once had an extended conversation with a group of my friends about bathroom etiquette–where to stand, how not–emphatically not–to make eye contact, and whether or not it was acceptable to use a stall.
It was simultaneously hilariously absurd and endearing just how much men repress their homoromantic feelings for their bathroom bros.
(I’m only joking a little bit. The preemptive assumption that accidentally making eye contact in the urinals is essentially a come on is very real.)
It gets better: some establishments utilize this adamant refusal to interact with the man the third stall over to advertise. After all, what else can you stare at other than the wall in front of you?
We finished this conversation with one final question: why do women go to the bathroom in packs?
(The answer is quite simple: They go together to gossip, touch up their makeup, and ask discretely for a spot-check or tampon. But god only knows why anyone would talk in the stalls. Whyyyy??)
But in an elevator, none of these interesting advertisements and newspapers are available. Large packs of boisterous young women are often silenced once they reach the inner sanctum of that tiny, moving box. In fact, elevator etiquette may be more absurd than bathroom etiquette.
Quite often, I find myself traveling multiple stories by tiny, steel box. Sometimes there are other passengers along with me, but more often than not, I time it so that I don’t end up riding with someone else, whether it’s by sheer luck, or just by tarrying a little more than I normally would in the connecting Bartell’s.
But when I do travel with other passengers, the interaction goes something like this:
Me: walks up to queue roughly behind the other waiting person.
Them: makes hesitant eye contact-smile combo
Me: hesitantly smiles back, looks vaguely constipated, break eye contact
Then the elevator arrives and we press in our respective floors.
In the elevator, we continue not talking and steadfastly not making eye contact. We also attempt to stand as faraway from each other as possible. I’m in the back corner, and they’re in the front corner.
Everyone in an elevator stands facing the same way: towards the exit. There is very, very little conversation, and if there is, it’s stilted, forced, brought about by a discomfort towards awkward silences. Mostly, people just get on and get off silently.
It’s an unspoken rule that the passengers should arrange themselves according to disembarking order, and when they do leave, they leave with utmost haste. No lingering, no pausing–no, these are too forward. And if you should meet your fellow passengers later in Bartell’s, you make sure to act like complete strangers who didn’t just spend forty-five tense seconds in a flying, metal box.