This timelapse video of man trapped in an elevator for 41 hours is difficult to watch. The video accompanies an article in the New Yorker about elevators.
White has the security-camera videotape of his time in the McGraw-Hill elevator. He has watched it twice-it was recorded at forty times regular speed, which makes him look like a bug in a box. The most striking thing to him about the tape is that it includes split-screen footage from three other elevators, on which you can see men intermittently performing maintenance work. Apparently, they never wondered about the one he was in. (Eight McGraw-Hill security guards came and went while he was stranded there; nobody seems to have noticed him on the monitor.)
The end of White’s story is heartbreaking. On the plus side, the article also discusses a favorite social phenomenon of mine, how strangers space themselves in elevators.
If you draw a tight oval around this figure, with a little bit of slack to account for body sway, clothing, and squeamishness, you get an area of 2.3 square feet, the body space that was used to determine the capacity of New York City subway cars and U.S. Army vehicles. Fruin defines an area of three square feet or less as the “touch zone”; seven square feet as the “no-touch zone”; and ten square feet as the “personal-comfort zone.” Edward Hall, who pioneered the study of proxemics, called the smallest range — less than eighteen inches between people — “intimate distance,” the point at which you can sense another person’s odor and temperature. As Fruin wrote, “Involuntary confrontation and contact at this distance is psychologically disturbing for many persons.”