Elevators in America

Something I’ve seen in American TV shows and movies puzzles me. A couple of characters get onto an elevator, the doors close, and the elevator starts moving. Then one character pushes the stop button, the elevator stops between floors, the characters exchange a few harsh words, then they restart the elevator.

now, I’m English, and we call them lifts over here. Where I come from, you push a button for the floor you want, the lift takes you there and stops. I have never seen a stop button in real life. Do they actually exist, ouside of movies? What possible purpose do they serve other than dramatic tension? Why would anyone want to stop an elevator in between floors?

I’ve seen stop switches. They set off a helluva racket when you use them.

They’re the same in the States. Everybody pushes their desired floor and it stops as it passes each one.

They do have emergency stop buttons. I’ve never tried one, but that might do what you’re describing. However, I’ve never seen this used in a movie. You mean they stop the elevator between floors just to talk about something? What movies have you seen this in?

Ditto. I can’t recall an elevator with a “pause & chat” button - you have to be willing to listen to a loud alarm.

I don’t recall any movies, but it has been done numerous times, especially for sex scenes. In the movies, the elevators just stop. In real life, an annoying buzzer would sound.

Not only does an alarm go off in the elevator when you pull the stop button, newer ones will call building security or whomever responds to elevator distress calls.

I’ve seen it several times, one specific example was in an episode of LA Law. One of the lawyers is trying to get a killer transferred from a supermax cell into a normal prison. A bunch of the victims relatives get on an elevator with the lawyer, push the stop button and tell the lawyer words to the effect of ‘the guy is scum, you ought to leave him there to rot.’

Old elevators would let you stop the elevator between floors without generating an alarm. Really old elevators gave the operator complete control over up and down movement. Many larger buildings, like hotels and department stores, hired people to operate the elevators.

Elevators in special institutions might have special controls. But most of the controls in the elevator do nothing without a fireman’s key. In most elevators, “open door”, “close door”, “stop”, don’t do anything unless it’s in fire mode.


I worked in a Hospital with buildings & wings dating from 1911 to 1986.
All the Elevators had Emergency or stop buttons and several had no alarms.

Until a few years ago, my 1937 apartment building had 100% original Otis elevators. Elegant mahogany paneled cabs, heavy cast-brass control panels, glass indicator bubbles at every landing, all original mechanics, the works, including a plain old stop switch that didn’t set off alarms.

Trouble was, like many of us in our dotages, the elevators started acting a bit odd, taking you only one floor whichever button you pushed, refusing to close the door and answer calls unless someone went up and got inside, and just plain breaking down. Even when the things were working, people could and did stop the cab at their own floors for as long as they pleased, which inconvenienced everybody.

The guts and controls were replaced with brand-new, up-to-code, all-electronic yada-yada, the cabs refinished by hand, and they work great. But you can’t pull the stop switch without an alarm, and you can’t hold the door for more than a minute without a nice loud BEEEEEEEP tone audible for several floors.

It’s used in the TV series NCIS. Boss man Jethro Gibbs refers to it as “my office” and takes others there so they can talk without being overheard. No alarm sounds when the stop button is pushed.

I used to work in a mailroom In Philly years ago…sometimes moving pallets of stationery in and out of the basement via the freight elevator.

Sometimes the skid would be too heavy to align the elevator to the intended floor and the door wouldn’t open, so I would hit the stop button/switch to “cheat” the system and manually wrench open the door to get through.

There was no alarm, until the elevator inspector/repairman installed one. :wink:

Huh? In every elevator I’ve tried it on, “open door” certainly does something - it keeps the doors from closing automatically - easier and safer than sticking your hand in front of the photocell (for newer elevators) or holding back that little bit that sticks out (for older elevators). In my experience “close door” often does basically nothing, but if the door closing is on a longer delay, “close door” will often speed it up.

I worked at the city library when I was in high school. The stop button on the circa 1960 elevator was handy for holding the elevator doors open as I maneuvered several book carts on or off the elevator.

The stop button is also good in a scary situation when part of a person’s clothing is caught between the doors and the elevator car starts moving.

When I worked for the Commerce Dept. in the mid-1980s the elevators had operators who sat there all day saying “Floor please?” and “3rd floor, watch your step.”

Now THAT"S a cushy gov’t job.

Eh. It has it’s ups and downs.

There was a department store in Santa Monica in the '80s called Henshey’s. Might have been there up to the early-'90s. (There’s a Toys ‘R’ Us there now.) It was a creepy store that seemed to have remained unchanged since the '60s. They employed an elderly woman as the lift operator.

(reading more of the thread) What Canadjun said. The Door Open button is required to work in case somebody is caught. A keyed Emergency Stop is used so the elevator doesn’t become the Special Rape Suite, which is also one reason why it was (or in un-updated cars, is) hooked to the alarm (it should be tied to the emergency phone now). However, it didn’t used to be true so that is where the movie/TV convention came from. Same with emergency stop buttons that can be pushed accidentally. I raised a stink when we started selling only Pull to Stop buttons because it was going to take away a plot device used in every sitcom ever, but it’s all a moot point now that the ASME Code is requiring keyed stops.

The elevator operators had the greatest union EVAH! Decades after elevators became fully automated, including the ones they operated, their contracts stayed in effect. New operators weren’t hired, so the ones we saw were all ancient, but they stayed on their stools until they died.

And we all know that the Door Close button isn’t even hooked up to anything.

The door close button is the most carefully designed button. It is built extra strong and resistant. It is there to give impatient people a feeling of not being powerless. :wink: