Allow me to set the stage. I just emerged from the autoclave room with a cart full of hot, steamy, dirty vials and bottles of Drosophila media in tow (see image below the fold). The glassware had been the home for thousands of flies for a period of over a month. What started out as a mixture of agar, cornmeal, yeast, molasses was churned up and excreted into by tons of larvae. All this nastiness was then heated at high pressure, releasing all kinds of aromas that I have the pleasure of dragging around our building. I’m a real popular guy.
I had to push the cart from the autoclave room to the elevator and from the elevator to our lab. Anyone unfortunate enough to encounter me in the hallways or elevator (or use the autoclave room within a day of me) gets to enjoy my unique scent. They should feel honored. As I walked down the hallway, I noticed a fellow grad student waiting for the elevator to arrive. I politely allowed her to ride alone so as not be trapped in a confined space with my cart o’ stank.
We were on the sixth floor. I needed to ride the elevator because my lab is on the floor below and my cart wouldn’t fare too well on the stairs. The other grad student had nothing with her — no cart, no bag, no nothing — and was presumably planning to ride to the ground floor. She was going to ride the elevator down. Not up, which would be somewhat understandable. Down! And she’s a marathon runner. Seriously. Like competitive and shit. She didn’t need to ride the elevator; she chose too.
Which brings me to the question: in what situations should you ride the elevator in a research building?
You do not want to ride in an elevator with this bad boy.
My personal opinion is that an elevator should only be used if it is needed. If you can physically walk up the stairs without undue discomfort, don’t ride the elevator. If you’ve got a cart that looks like the one shown above, you get to ride the elevator. If you’re on crutches, in a wheelchair, or are otherwise physically handicapped, you get to ride the elevator. If you’re carrying bins full of field samples to your lab on the fourth floor, you get to ride the elevator.
Our building doesn’t have one of those new fangled speedy elevators you see in the glistening buildings built within the past decade. This sucker’s slow. Not only does it not go between floors with any sense of urgency, it also takes a while to arrive when it’s called. It’s pretty much always faster to walk the stairs than to ride the elevator. That means people who ride the elevator when they could take the stairs are just lazy.
And screwing it up for all of that need to use the elevator to lug carts up and down between floors. Because the lazy people ride the elevator so much, it takes longer than it should to arrive when called. The extra traffic wastes everyone’s time. So I’ve been tempted to post a sign in each of our two elevators — right next to the “IN CASE OF FIRE USE STAIRS” sign — that reads:
IN CASE OF SELF-MOTIVATION USE STAIRS
I’m not entirely happy with the phrasing, but it’s a start. Incidentally, I once saw an IN CASE OF FIRE placard with the following edit:
IN CASE OF FIRE
DO NOT USE ELEVATOR
But my fellow grad students (marathon runners or not) are not the worst elevator hogs. Sure, there are a bunch of people who ride the elevator from the ground floor to the sixth floor, which is somewhat understandable — although that hike is not too physically challenging. The worst elevator hogs are the undergrads who ride the elevator from the ground floor to the first floor.