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 immediately 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.
Seeing this phenomenon happening among city dwellers of the world, it makes me think whether or not we should remove this ‘Door Close’ button, considering that it is a catalyst for encouraging even greater impatience in our community. Lift doors open for 10 seconds on average, 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’.
Living in a fast-paced society like Singapore where ‘time is money’, perhaps we should train ourselves to be more patient and forgiving. By removing something so trivial in our lives, 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.