Taxonomy of the Elevator Passenger

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The Elevator is a pan-global class of ecosystem, observed in virtually all climates, characterized primarily by six-sided enclosure and mechanical displacement (vertical only). Other common attributes include artificial lighting, prominently displayed mass threshold* and the faint aroma of flatulence.

(*Note that, like the eyebrows on Homo sapiens, the Elevator‘s posted mass threshold has no discernible function in the modern era. Over decades of observation, researchers have never noted a single instance of an Elevator being delayed for cross-reference of its contents against said threshold. It it is suggested that, in prior eras, such cross-reference was a matter of simple mental arithmetic on the part of any concerned passenger. But with global population growth and – especially – the emergence of epidemic obesity, such intuitive verification has become impractical. The safety of Homo sapiens is thus arguably under threat by virtue of its physical enlargement having outpaced the evolution of its capacity for mental math. In any case, experts posit that the moot quality of the posted mass threshold will lead to its disappearance from the Elevator within a few short generations.)

There are various subgroups of the Elevator ecosystem, each with its own set of defining characteristics. Elevator residentialis (appearing in residential highrises), for instance, is known for its tendency to be slowest when the arriving resident is grappling with the urgency of an impending bowel movement. E. makonnen (found in nightclubs, going up on a Tuesday) is characterized by disturbingly unidentifiable stains and the presence of stiletto-clad occupants tottering with the surefootedness of Bambi on ice.

This entry concerns the primary fauna residing in the Elevator of office-tower notoriety (E. purgatoris). E. purgatoris can be, in many plainly visual respects, similar to the aforementioned E. residentialis, but is marked by a distinct-if-not-immediately-evident sense of existential dread. Such dread is typically manifest in the conversations overheard therein, as well as in the body language and behavioral disposition of its inhabitants. The remainder of this entry is devoted to the taxonomical classification of the latter.

1. Passenger Auralossivus (colloquially, ‘Headphones-Too-Loud Guy’)
This obnoxious creature is characterized by its use of headphones that feature obscenely poor sound containment, are set far too loud, or (usually) both. In the best-case scenario, the sound escaping from the headphones is that of a garbled conversation (of podcast variety, or some such) – only mildly irritating to fellow passengers. More often, though, the surrounding space is flooded with a tinny, distorted facsimile of a musical genre that all fellow passengers despise to begin with. Experts debate whether this Elevator inhabitant suffers from a grotesque lack of awareness of its surroundings, or if it simply doesn’t give a rat’s ass what you think.

2. P. Panicattackulus (aka ‘Frantically-Check-What-Floor-We’re-At Guy’)
This curious specimen is marked by an unrelenting terror over the apparent prospect of missing its stop. It may glance down at its wristwatch or flash a nervous smile at its neighbor, but will immediately follow such diversion of attention with a frantic refocusing on the in-car floor readout. Any stop of the Elevator brings with it, at minimum, triple-checking on the part of P. Panicattackulus (approaching a state of full-on disbelief) that it is not yet time to exit. It is suspected that this creature has its origins in that one time last year when, in a moment of inattention, it did horrifically overshoot its intended destination by a floor. The subsequent agony of having to descend a flight of stairs is thought to have created the never-again resolve observed in Panicattackulus to this day.

3. P. Highonlifeus (aka ‘Gratingly Friendly Guy’)
Field research has yielded the following representative quote as to the sentiments of fellow passengers with respect to Gratingly Friendly Guy*:

“Listen, buddy. If my new-year’s resolution for good health hadn’t already gone up in a mid-January blaze of Taco-Bell glory, I would have dragged my sorry ass up the stairs this morning. Now that I’m here, the last thing I need is to be subjected to your nauseating chipperness. It’s before 9AM and I’m suffering from near-violent indigestion. I was just outside. I don’t need your dripping enthusiasm to make me aware that it’s unseasonably warm. And if you’re not gonna wipe that stupid grin off your face, at least stop directing it at me. I will not have a good day. I hope you choke on your flaxseed wafer at lunch.”

[Editor’s Note: employment of the word ‘Guy’ throughout this entry is intended in a generic, anatomically amorphous sense. The various taxonomical distinctions detailed herein are equally likely to comprise specimens bearing any conceivable set of sex organs.] 

4. P. Gustatoricus (aka ‘Eating Guy’)
The hallmark of Eating Guy is, predictably, its propensity to engage in full-blown dining while the Elevator is in transit. Traditionally, this creature is equipped with some form of handheld food item (e.g. sandwich, pizza), but new-age health consciousness and the particularly repulsive trend of faux ‘foodie-ism’ have resulted in some disturbing developments. Scientists now report seeing all manner of fragrant, plate-borne cuisine being consumed in the presence of other Elevator passengers. Root-vegetable tajine over couscous, grass-fed beef stew and brussel sprouts, freshly microwaved seafood medley – these are but a few of the particularly troubling examples noted in recent academic journals. P. Gustatoricus seems perfectly content to treat the environment as its personal noshing quarters, impervious to the visible discomfort of its fellow riders. Experts warn that if firm action is not soon taken by authorities, this audacious passenger may well come to feel entitled to sitting cross-legged (mid-cabin) on a red-&-white picnic blanket, during the noon-hour rush.

5. P. Chattycatheus (aka ‘Carry-a-Conversation Guy’)
Most Elevator passengers are apt to suspend their personal conversations for the duration of the ride. Chattycatheus, by contrast, exhibits no particular concern as to who is privy to its unsavory tales of weekend debauchery, family conflict or romantic exploits. Particularly puzzling is the fact that the person at whom these stories are directed is, by virtue of simple probability, typically just as uncomfortable with the conversation’s continuance as all other passengers in the car. So persistent is Carry-a-Conversation Guy’s obliviousness to social cues that it is blind to even its direct counterpart’s shifting and squirming, to say nothing of its awareness of those surrounding it more broadly.

6. P. Mortificensis (aka ‘Awkwardly Polite Guy’)
Of all the various inhabitants of E. purgatoris, this is perhaps the most common (contemporary academic literature is mum on this question, given that said literature doesn’t actually exist). P. Mortificensis is easily identified by its mousy, pained movements and behavioral tics. No word spoken is ever properly verbalized; instead, this creature will communicate in breathy, apologetic whisper-like tones. It will enter the elevator with the confidence of a freshman athlete forced by his teammates onto the stage at karaoke night. It will shuffle sideways in barely discernible increments when making room for incoming cohabitants, terrified of making contact with anyone or anything in its vicinity. Its eyes will dart nervously around the enclosure, as if the greatest tragedy that could befall any living thing would be inadvertently sustained eye contact. Researchers have reported a high incidence of second-hand embarrassment and elevated heart rate on the part of anyone so much as observing this agitated specimen.

7. P. Obstructicus (aka ‘Don’t-Get-Out-of-the-Way Guy’)
Destined for upper floors of the office tower, P. Obstructicus demonstrates a categorical lack of interest in improving the experience of other Elevator dwellers. Upon ground-floor passenger intake, this intractable pest will take up post in full or partial obstruction of the doorway and remain, unfazed, in this position until it has reached its destination. No manner of contortion or pained maneuvering by any exiting passenger along the way will clue this Elevatorite in to the fact that – just maybe – this whole thing would work better if it got its head out of its daydreaming ass. A simple step to either side would often be enough. Better still would be the step-out-of-the-car-for-a-sec-while-others-exit move, but the latter is a seemingly hopeless delusion to the jaded observer. (Aside: P. Obstructicus is a close anthropological relative to Grocery Shoppingcarticus and Sidewalk Hoggeretum.)

8. P. Retrofaceus (aka ‘Face-the-Wrong-Way Guy’)
Now extinct, not much is known about this erstwhile rider. What little archaeological evidence exists suggests that this hapless creature, marked by a tendency to stand at the front of the car and face toward its rear (making horribly awkward, close-range eye contact with all other passengers), did not survive long as a species. Researchers are virtually certain that P. Retrofaceus met a violent demise at the hands of its Elevator cohabitants – a textbook example of Darwinism at work.


Concluding notes:
-Contrary to what the reader may be inclined to assume, these taxonomical groupings are not mutually exclusive.
-Researchers have noted a high prevalence of Elevator dwellers perceiving that (one or more of) the above-listed groupings do not exist in their region, but caution that this is often a sign that the beholder is, itself, a member of the supposedly absent classification.

[Editor’s Note: The above article was initially submitted to the Journal of Experimental Zoology, but was summarily rejected with an accompanying note reading “what you’ve just written is one of the most insanely idiotic things we have ever read. We award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”]

*****

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