One of the things that stress me out the most about my university are the stairs inside buildings. EVERY door that leads to a staircase says that it’s an emergency exit and to keep it closed. EVERY SINGLE DOOR. I wish I was exaggerating. I spent the first few weeks after transferring roaming around, searching for alternate staircases or elevators. The fear I had of going through one of those doors and activating an alarm was paralyzing. It wasn’t until I heard people constantly complain about people taking the elevator one, two or sometimes even three floors up that I realized people actually used the stairs in this place. I started to keep an eye on stair doors. Only if someone went through it first would I then dare open it. I’m still infuriated and slightly disappointed whenever I see that red warning sign and open the door only to have nothing happen.
But my fury at this waste of plastic in the form of fake warning signs is only a small part of my issue with shaming culture here in the U.S. It’s actually absurd. You might be unfamiliar with the terrain here in Morgantown, West Virginia. Let me put it this way, our mascot is a Mountaineer. When walking to class you have to pick your poison: crazy steep hills or endless stairs. It’s up, up, up every day. Obviously by the end of it the reflective, metal doors of an elevator are an oasis. So why in the world do people get so unreasonably and legitimately angry whenever someone dares use the elevator to go up a couple of floors? Surely after a day of endless classes and hiding heavy breathing you’d want a few seconds of rest too. I was secretly thankful I lived on the 9th floor that semester, it wasn’t something I had to deal with at the end of a tiring day.
“Why are people so lazy?”people whine whenever they stop at one of the lower floors, ready to stare down this “lazy bum” getting on or off the elevator. And they know literally nothing about this person. What if they have a messed up knee? What if they have bricks in their backpack? What if they just don’t feel like going up two more flights of stairs after a particularly bad day? Does it really affect you that much not having the elevator to yourself? Are those four extra seconds it takes the elevator to stop at the second floor really so incredibly precious to you that you need to not only judge this complete stranger but talk trash about them the instant those doors close? It makes me furious. Furious and incredibly anxious. I can feel the eyes on me whenever I take the elevator with my huge laundry bag up or down two floors. I also see people struggle with their own laundry or several bags of trash down the stairs. Elevators are supposed to make our lives easier, not create more complicated social conventions.