Daily Archives: October 11, 2012
I’ve been reading an article today about the reasons why we behave so oddly in lifts.
Many of us use them several times a day without really noticing. And yet the way we behave in lifts, or elevators as they are known in the US, reveals a hidden anxiety. Most of us sort of shut down. We walk in. We press the button. We stand perfectly still.
So why are we so awkward in lifts?
It is probably because you don’t have enough space. Usually when we meet other people we have about an arm’s length of distance between us but that’s not possible in most lifts so it’s a very unusual setting. It’s unnatural. In such a small, enclosed space it becomes vital to act in a way that cannot be construed as threatening, odd or in any way ambiguous. The easiest way to do this is to avoid eye-contact completely.
But perhaps there is more to it than just social awkwardness. Perhaps it is more about being trapped inside this small enclosed space if the lift breaks down. Regular Twitter followers will remember Stephen Fry’s amusing tweet when he got stuck in a lift at Centre Point in London in 2009 – it made the national news! The reality of course is far from amusing as you have no idea how long it will be before you are set free from your incarceration and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably be desperate to go to the toilet as well!
One thing I always do now when entering a lift is to read the name of the manufacturer which is usually displayed on the plaque where you find the buttons to operate the darn thing. This goes back to when I worked on the 4th floor of a building in Edinburgh and each time I got in, I smiled inwardly, saying to myself “Schindler’s Lift”! Not very mature I know, but it always made me smile [and colleagues groan!].
For what it’s worth, if the thought of travelling in a machine that’s moving and over which you have no control, you can’t see its engine and you don’t know how it’s working fills you with dread – err on the side of caution and take the stairs!
It is said that you learn something new every day and today I have learned that the shortened form of VP (Vice President) of the United States is “Veep”.
The forthcoming elections see Paul Ryan for the Republicans and Joe Biden for the Democrats fighting it out for the title and they are about to go head to head in a live TV debate later today. Joe Biden is already the Vice President, having held this office since 2009, while Paul Ryan is the Republican Congressman for Wisconsin.
As is always the case in politics, it is easy to find stories that will discredit the individuals and make us doubt their integrity. For instance, Paul Ryan once said he’d run a marathon in under three hours – but later admitted it was more likely four, while Joe Biden pulled out of the presidential nomination race in 1987 after allegations that he’d plagiarised part of a speech by the then Labour Leader, Neil Kinnock.
But what exactly is a Veep and do they matter?
Well they are expected to take over if the president is no longer able to govern – hence the phrase “only a heartbeat away from the presidency”. This has happened 14 times in total, including when JFK was assassinated and when Richard Nixon resigned. They preside over the Senate and cast a deciding vote. In the 1930’s, Vice-President John Nance Garner described the role as “not worth a bucket of warm spit”, but many vice-presidents now take on important portfolios and act as a “sounding-board” for the president.
Perhaps more attractive is the opportunity it can present. The VP office often serves as a springboard to a later presidential bid – George Bush Senior, and Al Gore were both VPs first.