by Chris MacDonald
Elevators standardly have signs like this one, indicating maximum number and weight of passengers. This is good information, on the face of it. No one wants the elevator they’re in to fail. In this context, it seems like a normative sign, rather than a sign that merely provides information.
But just how is anyone supposed to act on the maximum weight? Does anyone ever poll the crowd, gathering individual weights and summing them?
Better yet, do they kick off the 22nd person, or anyone who looks a little chunky when the elevator has 21 people aboard?
Ha. Yeah, the sign would be more sinister on an elevator with an attendant or someone else “in charge.”
In a crowded elevator in a tourist destination last summer, we did in fact tally the people in the elevator to compare to the sign’s recommended maximum. Of course, the elevator was already in motion by the time this happened, so I don’t know what we were planning to do if we found out we were over capacity…
The weight limit may also apply to packages or freight, if the elevator is also used as a freight elevator or has a lot of luggage in it. You can’t assume the elevator is not overloaded just because it has fewer than 21 people in it; the sign tells you how to make sure.