I wasn't necessarily going to link to this essay on elevators, but last night I kept dreaming about them, so it must have hit a nerve. Krystal D'Costa provides a nice mix of psychology and physics in her short piece for the Scientific American. She describes one of the terrors of riding in a high-rise:
There’s always at least one. There I am at work, waiting — a bit groggily — with a group of people to board the elevator. The car finally arrives and we shuffle in, arranging ourselves Tetris-style and shifting accordingly as the elevator stops - on what seems like every floor - to let people off. After about the third stop someone will invariably pipe up from the back of the car: “Must be the local.” Most mornings the worn joke will be met with a murmured acknowledgment and calculated silence. In New York City, on an elevator packed with strangers the norm is silence. Though cell phone talkers are increasingly invading this space, for the most part polite, short acknowledgment is acceptable (if given at all) and companionable silence is preferable. But every now and again, someone will cheerily take the bait (“Haha! Yup, tell me about it. Local all the way!”) and strike up a conversation. It upsets the dynamic of the elevator ride, making the rest of us feel like interlopers.
D'Costa does not get into the scourge of healthy-looking people taking the elevator for one or two floors. In my apartment building, I sometimes see people taking the elevator from the second to first floor to go to the exercise room. (I can understand taking it back up one floor, if an exercise bike has turned your legs to jelly.)
Unfortunately, I couldn't find a suitable image from the best TV series about elevators, The Bob Newhart Show. The bank of elevators in Dr. Robert Hartley's reception area provides some of the best sight gags on the show, culminating in the classic "Death Be My Destiny," about fears of elevators and just about everything else. (See not-so-hot-quality videos below; the elevator stuff starts near the end of the first half, at about 9:20.)