I stepped into an elevator yesterday morning and discovered something rather interesting about myself.
I learned I’m unique.
At least I was for the few moments I was in that elevator because I was the only one of five passengers in the elevator not staring at a phone.
I guess it’s fair to say, without bragging, that I spend a lot of my time being unique because as a person who lives in a high-rise tower, elevator rides are a part of my daily routine and it is a rare day indeed when some, if not all, of my fellow passengers are not gawking at their phones.
I bring this to your attention not because I’m bothered or because I wish to change elevator etiquette but rather because the horrendous events in different locations around the world over this past week culminating in yesterday’s hostage taking at a Radisson Hotel in Mali have caused me to spend much time reflecting on how the world around us, and the people within it it, grows more and more distant despite technology making it smaller each day.
It is my habit when stepping into an elevator to look at the other passengers and offer a greeting such as “good morning” or “hello.” Most often the response is little more than a grunt and it is not uncommon for there to be no response at all.
I serve on the condo board of the building my wife and I live in and the other day one of the residents complained to me about the loud piano playing habits of his neighbour.
I asked if he had knocked on his neighbour’s door to point this out to him and when he answered that he hadn’t I asked him if he knew his neighbour’s name.
It turns out they have lived side by side with only one wall separating them since 2008 and have crossed paths in the hallways, elevators and gym on numerous occasions.
He did not know his neighbour’s name and was quite sure the neighbour did not know his.
Strangers living on the same floor for seven years.
We have become so distant, and so removed, from our neighbour’s that the very manner of our lifestyles has changed.
There was a time when, if our sleep was being disturbed by the barking of our neighbour’s dog we would knock on the door, invite ourselves in for coffee, then politely ask the neighbour – who we would have gotten to know fairly well – to ask their dog not to bark after 10PM.
Today’s our default action to take when hearing the sounds of Fido drifting in from next door is to call the police.
Most likely because seven years is far too short a time span to get to know our neighbours and, in order to make damn sure those pesky neighbours make no attempt to get to know us, we focus intently on our phones each time we share an elevator with them.
We can’t blame this on cell phones because prior to their invention our elevator time was always spent busily focusing on our shoes.
Perhaps if we took time to get to know our neighbours and their neighbours and perhaps even the folks across the street, and if we began to see them as people with whom we could interact and socialize and form a community with, then maybe, just maybe we could begin to make the world a better place one block and one building at a time.
In our condo building we hold several social functions each year. We have a Christmas party, we have a barbecue during Stampede (for you non-Calgarian’s just think of this as a block party) and we host other events, all with the intention of getting to know our neighbours and strengthening our community.
And it has paid off with huge dividends.
Every high rise condo building surrounding us has been plagued with criminal activity like break and enters, car prowling’s and the other crimes all too familiar in high density downtown locations.
We barely have any crime at all, but what we do have is a level of vigilance among our residents that is the envy of our neighbours.
Yes, we do have a security guard in our building each night and yes we have repeatedly upgraded our security systems to the point where more than 80 cameras proudly stand guard over our property.
But the biggest deterrent to crime has resulted from our efforts to get neighbours to know each other and by so doing they frequently deny entry and access to people unfamiliar to them.
Anyone familiar with crime in high-rise towers will agree that all of security technology in the world is easily defeated by the single most common cause of crime which is residents allowing others to follow them into the buildings.
I can’t say this does not happen in our towers but I can tell you that our efforts to get to know and befriend our neighbours has gone a long way to making our building the safest in our city.
Not for nanosecond am I suggesting that the horrible events of this past week can be prevented through neighbourliness, but I do believe the more we get to know each other, to treat each other as people and not as objects and to embrace our sameness’s and respect our differences, we more we will realize that peacefully and harmoniously sharing this planet is really not a difficult task.
And perhaps, to begin the process, we can put our phones away and start saying “hello.”
If this doesn’t lead to the world becoming a better place it will at least become a much friendlier and more fun place.
And that cannot be a bad thing, can it?
Till we read again.
Finally, after months in the works, my company’s new website is up. Please take a moment and visit www.strategicpathways.net . Browse through this site and then click on the “Contact Us” tab or firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you think.
Your opinion truly means a lot to me.