After Trapped In An Elevator premiered last week, we started hearing from viewers who disagreed with one of our on-screen experts about a quirk of elevator operation: the door-close button. Does it actually do anything? In the film, John Menville, an elevator technician with almost 50 years of experience maintaining elevators in New York City, said no:
John Menville: As you'll notice, there are a lot of buttons in the elevator. However, there's one button that doesn't work. The door close button will not close the doors no matter how many times you push it. "Door Close" button does serve a function: it lets people think that they have some control over the elevator, although that's not the case.
New Yorker writer Nick Paumgarten said the same thing in his 2008 story on elevators, with a little caveat: "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."
But some of our viewers--and some of our own staff--are convinced that their favorite door-close buttons are perfectly functional. It turns out there is a lively debate on the subject online, too. So, who's right? Are the pro-close-button folks delusional? Are anti-closers dour cynics so convinced of their own powerlessness that they won't accept responsibility for something as inconsequential as an elevator door?
But then we realized that this isn't a question that can be answered on the internet. There's only one place to go to settle the issue once and for all: The elevator. Which actually means there are about 700,000 places to go, in the U.S. and Canada.
Seven hundred thousand is a lot. So, we need your help. Call it citizen science. All you need is a stopwatch and, naturally, an elevator. Hop in the lift, hit your floor button, and wait to see how long it takes for the door to start closing. Then try it again, adding a press of the door-close button. Repeat the whole thing a few more times, because that's what scientists do. Report your results in the comments section.
We'll do our own experiment on the elevators here at our One Guest Street headquarters. Stay tuned for the results!