Written by Jeeheng Yew
Do we really need to shut the doors on people all the time?
Let me describe a very typical day that happens to us too often – you walk into the lift with a few others and we are headed to different levels. Someone leaves the 5th floor and the person nearest to the lift buttons hits the ‘Door Close’ button almost instantaneously.
I’m not pointing my fingers at anyone because I am honestly guilty of showing signs of impatience on the poor lift too. And it has finally been proven that the ‘Door Close’ button is feeding our need for control and efficiency. A recent New York Times article revealed that most of these buttons are in fact placebo buttons that do not actually work since a major lift redesign in the 1990s.
But I’ve tried plenty in Singapore, and these buttons seem to be designed specifically for impatient people like us. Let’s say that lift doors open for 10 seconds on average (sometimes even shorter), each lift can hold the weight of about 15 people, while there is only that many levels the lift could arrive at. Are we really that rushed for time, for that few seconds that do not even add up to a minute?
We have to admit that we get trapped inside a ticking stopwatch most of the time – getting frustrated over train delays, over a long queue at our favourite coffee place, or even at the person in front of you who walks too slowly… What if we slow down, just a little bit, and enjoy that few seconds of delay?
I vividly remember my recent trip to Seoul, where my subconscious behaviour led me to reach for the ‘Door Close’ button and to my surprise it wasn’t there. The lift had only the ‘Door Open’ button and I quickly retreated my hands into my pockets and waited for the doors to close on automation.
After spending a few days there, I would go all the way inside the lift instead of assuming the role of the ‘Button Presser’ as I always would. That also gave me the chance to greet strangers with a simple ‘Good morning’ or ‘Good afternoon’.
Perhaps we should train ourselves to be more patient and forgiving? Efficiency isn’t always the way to pursue, as we all learnt in some point in our lives that it is about the quality over the quantity. So the next time we enter the lift, let’s do our small part by not urgently close the doors. It might just motivate us to pay more attention to the ‘Door Open’ button – allowing people to enter the lift. No more shutting people at the door, literally.