What Really Controls the Elevator Close Button?

Not you. You may think you control the elevator close button, but most likely you do not.

This is from a new daily mailing from Quartz, called Quartz Obsession. Monday’s focus was the invention of the elevator. Here’s what Quartz Obsession says in response to the question “Does the close door button really do anything?”

Probably not, at least in the United States, where the Americans with Disabilities Act mandates a minimum time (typically at least 3 seconds) that doors must stay open. Patrick Carr, operator of the now defunct Elevator Historical Society museum in Queens, told Radiolab that about 80% of “close door” buttons are nonfunctional. They basically exist to give people an illusion of control.”

There is, however, a way to subvert the button.

There is one way to manipulate the close-door mechanism. Radiolab’s Robert Krulwich reported that if your car opens on a floor and no one is there, instead of pressing “close door” you can wave your hand to break the motion-sensing beam. “That will convince the stupid elevator that someone has entered the elevator and the door will close,” he says. “It will shave 3 or 4 seconds off your waiting time and it will give you the sense of being Superman.

If you live in an elevator building like I do, or work in one, or stay in a hotel with one, there’s your trivia bit for today. 🙂

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