climb

manners for office workers

i have been using the lifts at the RCBC plaza for nearly 8 years now and one of the things that annoys the hell out of me when i'm forced to share them is the amount of noise that fills the small, cramped spaces that can fit about 20 people. although i've never stayed longer than 2 minutes on any elevator carriage when it zips up and down one of makati's most modern buildings, those short moments can prove to be tests of patience and restraint when i'm jammed inside with people i do not know who are rushing to punch timecards in the morning, running down in herds at midday to eat lunch or smoke a few cigarettes, or leaving in blocks at the end of their daily routines to chase after common shuttles. and almost always these people work in the same offices, chatter in their normal voices, continue conversations started while waiting for the elevator doors to open, ignore strangers who become unwilling, captive eavesdroppers to mundane, inane, irrelevant, personal exchanges, and do not notice how the acoustics of an enclosed space amplify the volume of the irritating sounds they make.

an elevator is neither a library nor a monastery, and by no means do i expect people to be absolutely silent when they're inside one, but common courtesy has become rare and good manners are no longer qualities synonymous with college degrees and the middle class, since few seem to realize it's rude to be speaking aloud when you're in tight public spaces. a colleague said that call center agents, thousands of whom occupy floors above and below us, are the primary culprits of this vulgar behavior. they are, after all, the same ones caught on camera leaving behind food wrappers and empty coffee cups on the elevator floors. but being uncouth is not the exclusive domain of the filipino workforce. there are embassies in my building whose diplomats fill the elevators with their accents and words that often sound greek.

when i got back from a long weekend in cebu, i was surprised to find a new (slightly victoria courtesque) decal in our elevator asking riders to shush, keep the volume down, stay quiet, speak in hushed tones. it's smart, but many years delayed. but then again, perhaps building management expected people to share this common belief that no one should be shouting inside the lifts, in the same way that i was surprised to see a sign in an HDB lift in singapore some years ago saying: no spitting. i asked my friend: does anyone? apparently, unless you spell out what constitutes good manners, people will think that what they do routinely when they're alone are perfectly fine even outside their own homes and in the company of absolute strangers.

elevators are not the only tight spaces we share with strangers. there are many others: buses, jeepneys, trains, airplanes, FX taxis, GT shuttles. unless you're the driver, the bus conductor, a lay preacher asking for love contributions, an activist seeking financial help for your struggles, it is improper in any of these places to let everyone else in the conversation, or to inform the world about your successes in a game, or to set the volume of your ringtone to its highest because you might not hear it in the din of public spaces. respect others and preserve your privacy. lower your voices, use earphones, put phones on vibrate mode.