How to Operate an Elevator and Make the World a Better Place

how to use a liftYou see it every day. People pressing buttons like crazy, even though there are actually only 2 to press, and expecting the elevator to understand their intentions. Frustration, irritation. People who want to go down, entering a lift going upwards.The humiliated look on their faces when they have been given a ride and returned to their starting point. The traces of rage in their expression, and disbelief: how is it possible that I, the grand commander of the elevator, the one who has the priority, regardless of how it actually works did not go to where I wanted? I pressed the button! Sound familiar?

So how is it possible that we, the rulers of the planet, the ones who are on top of its food chain, the inventors of computers and flyers to space, are not be able to use a device with only 2 buttons (yes, TWO buttons)? It beats me. But it also annoys me to see that due to our impatience, most elevator rides take way longer than they should. And that’s how this small tutorial was born. Unlike other Disorganisation Tutorials this one is not teaching you how to be messy, it is teaching you how to use the lift and lift buttons.

Basic Facts About Elevator and Elevator Buttons

Elevators or lifts have been around for a very long time. If you’re interested to find out about the first ones, this article is a good starting point. Having in mind that this is not a recent invention, it is really surprising that people STILL don’t seem to know how they actually work and how to use them efficiently.

First, let’s check the basics: all you need to know is that on each lift there are some buttons to press, there’s an info display for your convenience, one door and many floors that this contraption can take you to.

Let’s first check the buttons you see when you are in front of a lift. There are usually two, except on the bottom and top floors, which only have one button each, because you can only go to one direction from those two locations- logical, right?. The purpose of those buttons is to “inform” the elevator that you are on a certain floor and want to go up/down, so that it can stop and pick you up on its way.

There is usually a display too, often above the elevator door, and it shows what floor the elevator is currently on and in which direction it is moving. When it stops at your floor one of the buttons will remain lit, showing you the direction that it will take after the door closes. The only occasion when both buttons will light is when the lift has only you “calling” it and will go to any direction you chose, otherwise only one of the lights will be lit. This is a great feature and it’s purpose is to inform us, not confuse us. Although, it seems that it causes more confusion than help.

How to Use The Elevator and Embarrass Yourself

And this is where the trouble starts. Here’s a typical situation:

You’re on the 7th floor of a 15 floor building, waiting for the elevator. You want to go to the ground floor, and you’ve pressed the “down” button. Another person arrives. Looks at the display. The lift is on the 4th floor and indicating that it’s going down. The newcomer presses the “up” button, because they believe that they need to “direct” the lift towards themselves. After a few number changes on the display, the lift starts going up and the newcomer smirks happily – most likely thinking that you were such a fool for pressing that “down” button, as it didn’t work. The doors of the lift open and the direction indicator is still showing up. The newcomer enters victoriously, giving you a look of wisdom and you watch his self contentment as the doors slowly close. The elevator keeps going up, and it’s your time to smile. After a few stops up and a few stops down towards your floor, the door opens and the direction light shows down. You enter and press the bottom floor, trying not to look at the now embarrassed stranger.

Why does this happen? Because we confuse information and action. The direction lights only show you which way the lift is going, and in 95% of situations you cannot change it. They are only for information purposes. The action that is required from you is to just press one button and wait – the machine will do its job, just as it does it every day (unless it’s broken, but that’s another rant altogether).

How to Operate the Elevator Buttons Correctly

So, to avoid situations like that the rules are really simple.

Here is all you need to do to use a lift:

  1. Press the button in the direction you are going: “up” if you’re going up, and “down” if you’re going down.
  2. Wait until the direction lights point to the same direction you are going to  and only then enter the elevator.
  3. Once inside, press the floor you are going to and the lift will take you there.

That’s it. Simple? No need to press all the buttons, it just makes the elevator work more, and become slower. Imagine that there is one person on each floor doing exactly that: this would mean many unnecessary stops and many unnecessary rides. And nobody wants that.

So to sum up: if you’re going up then PRESS THE UP BUTTON, regardless of where the lift is; if you’re going down – PRESS THE DOWN BUTTON. If the direction of the lift is down and you want to go up, DON’T enter. It will not go up, even if you “command” it to.

End of rant.


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9 thoughts on “How to Operate an Elevator and Make the World a Better Place

  1. I’m old enough to remember when elevators had attendants (some of them anyway, self-serve was being introduced). While the job had its ups and downs, it provided employment for unskilled workers and saved riders from the embarrassment of pushing the wrong button.

    1. It’s very true, but I don’t think there are attendants anymore. What’s funny is that it is so simple to figure out, but somehow most of us are still doing it wrong.

  2. Have you heard about the guy who was so dumb that he could not even get a job as an elevator operator? He couldn’t learn the route!

    This is a great tutorial/reminder for us. Thanks for gentle way that you handled the obvious for the clueless among us.

  3. Sure, this has happened to most of us … probably all of us … but an early thought in reading this is that going the opposite direction is our fault simply because we didn’t take the time to notice the signals.

  4. This is silly though, but after using the elevator for many years, today I feel like I am so confused about the lift’s up and down button. Whether I choose to press up or down button, it will come to the floor I have chosen from. But, which is the correct one exactly. Suppose, the lift is on the fifth floor and I have to call it to the second floor, I should choose up button or down button?

What do you think?