What’s the Rule on Elevator Etiquette? Ask Harry and Louise

Our husband-and-wife team gets biblical on a reader dealing with the daily annoyance of the elevator shuffle.

By: Harry Jaffe, Louise Jaffe

Dear Harry and Louise:

People are idiots. They are. Please settle this “do you have a brain in your head?” etiquette question.

When you are on an elevator and the door opens, what should happen next? I face this issue every day, and it is a problem almost each time I’m on an elevator. Do the people on the elevator get off first? Do the people waiting to get on the elevator enter first? Why is this so difficult for people to understand?

Elevator Hater

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HARRY SAYS:

Before you haul off and smack one of these brainless wonders, maybe you should try the stairs. It would lower your stress level and give you some cardio, as well.

You are right, of course. It’s customary, courteous, and just plain sensible to let people exit an elevator, train, bus, Metro car—before one enters. It’s so very British in origin; those Brits will queue up to cross the street. I would even go beyond the basic courtesy of letting people exit before you enter. I believe a gentleman should allow ladies and older gents to get off or on first. And hold doors, while you are at it.

However, if you grind your teeth and glare at the uncultured ones who don’t practice the basic etiquette, aren’t you defeating the purpose of being cultured? Stay above it. Or take the stairs.

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LOUISE SAYS:

There is no elevator where I work, but I see this problem rear its head nearly every day. One generation got distracted and forgot to teach the next generation a basic etiquette rule. I implore you, dear reader, to spread the word. This one is based entirely on logic, as many of our finest rules are.

An enclosed space should be vacated, emptied, and cleared before it is occupied, filled, and restocked. Let them out! Help everyone who wants out. Hold the door, say good morning, stand out of their way. You are then free to enter a place that is much more pleasant now that those trespassers are trespassing elsewhere.

Were Moses around today, he’d no longer be pleading to the Pharaoh to let his people go, but to “Let those people out of the store!” Those with New Testament sensibilities should recall the prayer about forgiving those who trespass against us. Those are people who insist on cramming themselves into elevators and packed stores while the occupants are trying to get out.

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HARRY SAYS:

Isn’t Moses the one who threw the Ten Commandments down on his people? Where’s the etiquette in that?

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LOUISE SAYS:

They weren’t listening. Next time, they will.