If you’re like me, you may have watched some cheesy hallmark movies over the holidays, and if you did, you probably discovered that magical things are supposed to happen in elevators, like Christmas kisses under mistletoe, resulting in the blossoming of true love and lifelong companionship.
Of course, we know that in real life, only terrible things happen in elevators – like strangers attempting to make small talk. Or acquaintances trying to reconnect. Or close proximity with people who forgot deodorant. Or over-applied Axe body spray (and let’s be honest; any application of Axe body spray is an over-application).
I work on the twenty-first floor of a fifty story building, so I tend to be trapped in an elevator with other humans at least twice most days of the week. I know it’s going to be a good day if I get to ride alone in the elevator on my way up to my cubicle, but this is rarely the case.
What I have discovered during my frequent studies of human behavior in elevators is that socially adept individuals act like electrons in an elevator; they spread out evenly so as to give everyone the optimal amount of personal space. But unfortunately, most people do not seem to be familiar with VSEPR Theory and the fact that humans should follow this principle when in a crowded elevator (a crowded elevator, of course, meaning that there is someone in there other than me).
Valence Shell Electron Pair Repulsion (VSEPR) Theory is used in chemistry to determine the geometry of individual molecules based on their electrons pairs. Put very basically, valence electron pairs tend to repel each other, and the closer they are, the more they repel, so molecules take on a shape that minimizes the electrons’ repulsion.
Or, in the case of the elevator, people (electrons) tend to repel me the closer they are to me, so when we are stuck together in an elevator (molecule), we all need to spread out so that we are the furthest distance away from one another, thereby minimizing our repulsion of one another.
For instance, if there are two people in an elevator, we need to take on a Linear shape:
For a grouping of three people in an elevator, a V-Shape is needed:
When five people are gathered in an elevator, they should assume the Seesaw shape:
You get the idea.
Bottom line: Elevators would be much more pleasant if people understood VSEPR Theory and how much they repulse me.