Though the initial purpose of the elevator was to lift otherwise immovable objects to and from different floors of a warehouse, these machines have since been utilized by the chronically lazy to squander all possible health benefits of stairs, and have ultimately evolved into a breeding ground for awkward silences.
Yes, though there is the occasional exception, most of us tend to lose our social mojo when confined to these tiny moving boxes. Even polite conversation seems forced when there are only three more floors until your stop.
Then how is it that when a group of 20 or so college students become suddenly trapped inside an elevator they emerge newly bonded?
We were all on a trip together, a physics field trip. You see, we were all in the same class, and like in any social gathering, a good 72% of us did not want to be there. Hardly any of us spoke before, during, or after that hour and twenty minutes we spent together. I had started to form a decent friendship with two people there, but other than that, most of us didn’t even know each other’s names.
But because we all share the college gene that programs us to prefer shortcuts, speed, and efficiency, we crammed all 20 of us into that elevator in the parking garage, assuming we’d get to the pit-stop restaurant faster.
Turns out, the elevator had different plans for us. We were stuck between floors. I think we started to realize we weren’t moving around the five minute mark. Then the pandemonium set in.
All of us started talking at once. We shared in nervous jokes to mask our fear, most of them eventually leading to a conversation about who we would eat first, should the need arise.
Somehow, the mixture of being physically pressed together in such close quarters and laughing at our own potential demise grew us closer together. At that moment, we were all friends.
Later that night, we all reveled in our newly formed friendship as we sat in one of our hotel rooms and harassed the poor man taking phone orders at a pizza place: “Yes, we seriously want ten large pizzas, three orders of buffalo wings, five boxes of garlic bread, and four liters of pop. No, this is not a prank.”
But when the trip was over, when Christmas break came and we were no longer in the same class, the magic of that elevator had worn off.
We planned to get together, and it did happen eventually, but it didn’t feel the same. I see a few of them in my new classes, and besides a first day polite chat, no conversation ever really stuck.
I’ve stayed connected with the two people I had first bonded with during our time together, and since then we’ve become even greater friends, finding that we have a lot more in common than one experience in an elevator.
I’ve always been a firm believer that when it comes to friends, less is more. I feel that certain people just tend to click, that their connection feels right, and they easily become friends without too much effort. It’s hard to sustain a connection with a large group of people.
And though we all seemed to click at that moment, our connection wasn’t based on anything substantial, just a shared fear that perhaps that chance encounter in that grungy elevator was going to be our last real shot at life.
True friendship is rooted in more than how we feel in one moment. It’s a connection you feel in your soul. If any of us met in an elevator now, I feel the usual awkward silence would kick in. But perhaps that little social adventure on that trip was exactly what all of us needed when we had just begun to feel a little stuck.