The heavily used "Close" button in a lift
Once getting into a lift, one may often see many hands, fat or slim, reaching out to the "Close" button and pressing it repeatedly.
It is a fairly common phenomenon in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but even more so in mainland China. At first I thought that the people who behaved in such a way were perhaps in a hurry and couldn't wait for the door to close by itself. But on second thought, I noticed that people who pressed the "Close" button seemed to be quite relaxed once the door was closed, not like people who were in a hurry to go anywhere. It seemed to me that the urge to press the "Close" button was to prevent other people from getting in.
You may wonder if there is any proof for such a conclusion.
Well, a friend of mine, a Professor Han of the Civil Engineering Department of University of Tennessee, US, took some pictures with his mobile phone of the button panels in lifts during his visit to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Shenzhen, which showed clearly that the "Close" button was the most smeared and dirty due to heavy use.
By the way, do you know which button is the cleanest? It shouldn't require any imagination to realise that the cleanest is the "Open" button. The lift door opens automatically once it reaches the designated floor so there is no need to press the "Open" button. On the other hand, people pressing the "Close" button to keep other lift-riders out certainly may not offer to hold the "Open" button for the convenience of passengers exiting, let alone holding it for the waiting passengers outside. The discrepancy in the frequency of use of the "Open" and "Close" buttons violates the symmetrical features typical in nature.
People who habitually press the "Close" button repeatedly must feel they can save a couple of seconds. That might have some marginal effect when few people are using the lift, but it won't save any time when there are many people using the lift. Traffic simulation can verify this.
It may not have occurred to people pressing the "Close" button that frequent use of the "Close" button may cause it to malfunction, therefore pressing the "Close" button repeatedly may not save you any time!
This article was originally published in Chinese in the United Daily News (30 July, 2014).
18 August, 2014