Elevated Insights

24 Oct

I guess this happens to most of us who get to ride in elevators atleast twice a day. Its a statistical problem and no one seems to understand it and it is always a battle between being nice and doing the right thing. If I get into an elevator to reach the 4th floor (my company has only 4 floors), I would like to have the least amount of people travelling with me. The more people there are in the elevator, the more probability that it should stop at more than 1 floor. So, when the elevator is about to take off, and there is someone coming towards the elevator from a distance, I usually dont care about stopping to pick them up. It is not just the waiting time for them to get into the elevator, but, there is also an additional 2/3 probability for them to get into one of the other floors than the one where I am heading. Consider the plight when the number of floors become too large. The ride time in the elevator grows with every new passenger. If there are fewer elevators, then you dont have a choice, especially in very high rised buildings. But, if there are ample elevators, why not just go ahead without waiting for the other person to join. Its going to be what, a few seconds before they get their next ride. One could argue that I would have the same impact admitting them. But then, the window of new comers to elevator increases, which invariably would end up with me having to wait for some more. I have consistently seen people displaying a major act of kindness and caring when it comes to picking one more person up on the elevator. I just dont understand it.

If the above paragraph is about going up the elevator, this is about coming down. The same statistical theory applies here as well. On top of it, there is a new problem now. In my office, on the exit path from the elevators, there are 2 hard glass doors and they are quite difficult to open on a windy day. One has to come out of the elevator and the first door leads to the lobby and the second door leads you out of the building. When I travel alone on the elevator, things are just normal.. so to say. Whenever I have someone else travelling with me, I always end up with this big confusion, which I havent resolved yet. When the elevator stops and dings you to get out of it, I wonder if I should be the person to exit first or let the other person out. If I get out first, it might seem a little rude at the beginning, but then, I end up opening the other 2 doors for the other person(s) and bag myself with a couple of “thank you”s. If I wait and let the other person go, then, they have to do the same to me and I will be obliged to say couple of half-hearted and half-pronounced “thank you”s. My challenge lies in looking at the person and deciding quickly if I am going to go first or let them go out first. Sometimes, though I decide to go first, especially, if the other person looks a little weak, the other person gets out first, sort of forcibly. I smile to myself and then wait for them to open the doors for me…:)… Interestingly enough, in both cases, if the other person is hot, it somehow seems to override all the rules of rationality and only caring and kindness remain…

PS: For those of you interested in the math behind the observation:

Time Risk (to reach floor n at floor 0) = Start Time + (P1+P2+….PJ)*((n-1)/n)*(UL_TIME) + (P1+P2+…PJ-1)*(n-2)/(n-1)*(UL_TIME) + …..+ (P1+P2…PJ-n-1)*(UL_TIME)

(Not adding any wait-times to show caring and kindness)

UL_TIME = Unload and Load Time, J=number of passengers, n = number of floors to travel


Posted by on October 24, 2005 in From AM-KICKING blog


4 responses to “Elevated Insights

  1. bumblebee

    October 24, 2005 at 6:49 pm

    I am wondering if there might be some intangible benefits of picking up the next person. It is quite possible you meet an interesting new acquaintance or the CEO of a company you have always dreamt of joining. I am not arguing on the probabilities here, but isn’t there the faintest possibility that you might meet someone who makes your day better?

    Also, the additional wait time that you spent to pick the next person and let them out on a different floor seems to have given you the extra time to conjure the complicated Math that evades the ordinary mind and has also enabled you to appreciate the value of time! 🙂

  2. BrainWaves

    October 24, 2005 at 7:16 pm

    Intriguing topic asusual. Yet to read the Mathematics in the note section.(asusual :))

    Here is the simple method (formula in Mindframes language)I follow.

    If both the inside-r and outside-r sees each other, then it is best to wait as it is good manners.

    If only inside-r sees, then it is subjective decision taken at that time. Order of precedence goes something like this,
    1) Attractive looking opp-sex
    2) Person you want to impress
    3) Person you think will make you
    feel guilty about leaving
    4) Someone you can chat during that
    brief interval

    And I unfortunately only LIFO works best wrt to coming out of elevator.

  3. Mindframes

    October 24, 2005 at 7:30 pm

    Just to clarify…. “hot” could mean a nice person that you want to impress or be friendly with…

    As an engineer, I would bet on putting 20% of resources to solve 80% of the problem and not the other way around…

  4. Survivor

    October 24, 2005 at 7:48 pm

    I am not a fan of “small talk” and so I dont like to travel in elevators with others.My routine goes like this,
    “look at the ceiling” – ” stare at the ground” – ” give a forcible smile” –
    “look at the ceiling” again and the loop continues.If it is a long ride, yes! u r forced to say Hi and try to talk about the weather and mostly, the other person rarely understands what you are saying because of all the different accents prevailing in free America. He nods his head and says something which you cannot understand….and the loop continues again..When the door opens,the “have a good day” or a “Bye” is usually the most enthusiastic words spoken.

    So, in my case,if I dont know the person travelling with me, I would rather be rude than be uncomfortable.


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