An Elevator Dilemma

When I take an elevator, I often do not press the button for the floor I’m heading to if the button for an adjacent floor has been pressed by the time I enter the elevator. (Instead, I exit at that floor, go to the nearest staircase, and use it to take a short walk to my correct destination floor.) I figure:

  • This makes things nicer in time efficiency for people going to a higher floor than me.
  • Even if there aren’t any of them, this makes things nicer in time efficiency for people waiting on a floor for the elevator to come to them.
  • Even if it’s not time-efficient for me, I’ve helped increase time efficiency for many other people and gotten myself a wee bit of exercise in return.

The problem is that sometimes explaining my actions to someone wondering what I’m doing is really awkward. I usually just hope they don’t ask.

Today, such a conversation happened that was especially awkward to partake in, because the person I was talking to in the elevator was on a wheelchair.

She pressed the button for the eighth floor and asked me which floor I was headed towards. I was headed for the ninth, and said “to the ninth, but eighth is good enough”. In the ensuing conversation, I really did not know how to express my system in ways that wouldn’t be considerably possibly offensive to someone on a wheelchair, for instance saying things that would remind them of things they cannot do.

And thoughts about the process and the cost of awkwardness made me reflect on something.

A while ago, one of my friends told me that he read somewhere that a study showed that all-male groups walking tend to walk faster than any of the most preferred speeds of people in the group, whereas all-female groups walking tend to walk slower than any of the most preferred speeds of people in the group. This struck me as odd, and since then, I’ve noted groups I’ve walked in and can confirm indeed that in all-male groups, the group tends to walk slower than I’d like it to be walking, so either the study is fairly wrong or I’m really weird.

It makes me ponder possibilities in discrepancies between how other people and I value time efficiency, which makes me ask the question of whether my perception of how much others are benefiting from my elevator choices should be modified, and how things weigh out against the large opposing force of awkwardness.

It really is weird how large and strange awkwardness gets as a role in decision making.


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