And now, for something completely different.

Ever notice that elevators have more buttons than floors they stop at?

You might think that the fewer the floors, the fewer the buttons. You’d be incorrect. The fewer the floors, the more buttons it would have, up to a ratio of 5:2 (buttons:floors).

Consider a building with two floors — there are commercial buildings (even some private homes) that have an elevator that only services two floors. But why so many buttons?

At a minimum, there would be buttons for 1, 2, Door-Open, Door-Close, and an Emergency Call button.

An elevator in a two-floor building really only needs to have ONE button. And that button would be labeled:


You know which floor you’re on — and the elevator will even tell you (sometimes verbally) which floor you’re on.

It would never make sense to be on the first floor and have a button that says “1” (or First, or similar). Likewise, if you’re on the second floor, then why would you have a button that says “2”?

It need only have a single button that says, “There”.

If I’m on One, then I want to go There. If I’m on Two, I want to go There.

But what if you want to hold the door open?

Consider in the case that you wish to hold the door open. It already has safety interlocks that prevent it from closing on somebody. They may be IR-emitters or even a physical safety bar with a microswitch to indicate that there’s a hand in the doorway.

Just wave your hand in the doorway.

But what about to tell it to close? What do we do then, Mr. Genius?

Easy. Just wait.

So, that’s three buttons out of five that we’ve eliminated.

I know what you’re thinking, “Surely, we can’t get rid of the Emergency Call button!”

Want to bet?

We already do the same thing with iPhones. If you press the Sleep button repeatedly, it’ll display emergency information or, in some cases, call your emergency contact.

In an elevator? We just push the There button repeatedly to do the same thing.

Oh, you didn’t mean to call help?

Press the There button to continue there.