Dear Mrs. (Slightly) Sophisticated

Is there such a thing as elevator etiquette anymore? This is a topic that draws much debate, especially among different generations.

First, a brief history of the elevator might clarify why certain rules came to be. The first human-powered, counter-weighted, personal elevator was built in 1743 for King Louis XV of France. It connected his apartment in Versailles to that of his mistress, Madame de Chateauroux, who lived one floor above him.

Elevators were used in commercial and industrial settings over the next century, not so much for moving people, but for moving heavy items. It only stands to reason that the heavy items were unloaded off the elevators first before the new items were added. Regardless of time, this disembarking and reembarking order remains the most important elevator rule, let people exit the elevator before you enter! It just makes the most sense.

In 1852, Mr. Elisha Otis built the confidence of human elevator riders by inventing a safety mechanism that keeps elevators from plummeting to the ground if the cables break. The first steam powered elevator was used in Manhattan at a five and dime store. At that time, women did the shopping, so women were usually the only people on these elevators. However, elevators were then installed in the first skyscrapers. Elevators assisted in the efficiency of building movement by transporting people to and from the offices of these buildings. Who mostly worked in these buildings at that time? Men.

So where did the ladies first rule originate? It might have been a gallant gesture, but more than likely, a secretary simply needed to be at her desk before her boss. This rule in elevators has been hard to keep in our ever-changing society. Now doors close automatically within a short amount of time, so sometimes, trying to hold the elevator door open could get you hurt. Getting hung up in a slow-poke situation behind a little old lady on a day when you were running late could get you in trouble with your boss. These are things to consider. However, does my husband usually wait for females to enter or exit the elevator first? Yes! Though it’s not a requirement, I love my husband’s good manners; it is evidence of good raising. Consider allowing ladies first. After all, we are still in the “yes ma’am,” “yes sir,” door holding south. It’s just the way we do things around here.

A few more things to consider for the sake of basic decency...

DO NOT let your kid press every button just because it is sparkly.

DO NOT have a loud conversation on your cell phone in the elevator. You are not that important.

DO offer to press a floor for someone else.

DO make room for others to enter and exit.

DO say excuse me when you are trying to exit, for goodness’ sakes! In general, just try to be a good human.

And most of all, DO NOT do anything in the elevator with other people you wouldn’t want your mother seeing.
That includes cursing, laughing at a private joke or making out. Literally, get a room.


Have a question for Mrs. (Slightly) Sophisticated? Email it to [email protected].


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