New Yorker Blows Lid off Door Close Button

The April 21, 2008 issue of The New Yorker has an article by Nick Paumgarten about elevators, contained within which is this shocking revelation about the “door close” button (emphasis mine):

In most elevators, at least in any built or installed since the early nineties, the door-close button doesn’t work. It is there mainly to make you think it works. (It does work if, say, a fireman needs to take control. But you need a key, and a fire, to do that.) Once you know this, it can be illuminating to watch people compulsively press the door-close button. That the door eventually closes reinforces their belief in the button’s power. It’s a little like prayer.

It is not (too much of) an exaggeration to say that learning this has undermined my faith in, well, any number of things.


Rob L.'s picture
Rob L. on April 28, 2008 - 15:23 Permalink

I had always assumed this was the case until I began working at the Atlantic Technology Centre. The “door close” buttons on the elevators here actually work, I swear.

Jevon's picture
Jevon on April 28, 2008 - 15:34 Permalink

In my condo a sign went up in the elevator a few weeks ago “The close door button is now active and will close the door when pressed”

I think everyone was sheepish after a few years of mashing that button regularly.

Andrew MacPherson's picture
Andrew MacPherson on April 28, 2008 - 15:43 Permalink

I think the world can be fairly evenly split between those who always press the door close button to save that crucial 2-3 seconds and those that know that by doing nothing the door will close on its own.

Charles's picture
Charles on April 29, 2008 - 00:35 Permalink

My old office building’s elevator didn’t have a Door Close button, but it did have an on/off switch. Pressing a floor button and then toggling the on/off switch would actually close the door. It’s still the slowest damn elevator on the planet though… I swear, there is a box tied to a rope-pulley pulled by a decrepit 3 legged mule in Peru that goes faster than the elevator at St James Gate…

Kevin's picture
Kevin on May 5, 2008 - 01:09 Permalink

Further undermining…. 20% push, 80% watch.

Ashley Johnston's picture
Ashley Johnston on May 25, 2008 - 05:55 Permalink

See! And everybody said I was crazy. Now it’s in the New Yorker. Are you going to argue with the New Yorker? On the other hand the language is pretty weak: “In most elevators,” then a qualification. Maybe you can argue with the New Yorker.