Why language matters

The door to the lift in my condo building isn’t automatic. You have to pull it closed behind you. It’s really heavy. This is the sign inside.

lift sign (2).jpg

Pretty clear, right?

But this is the sign the residents of the condo next to the lift on the ground floor have had to tape to the door.

door sign (1).jpg

That’s because the lift door doesn’t need to be closed firmly at all. It has to be closed fully. If the door is left open a fraction the lift won’t budge when you call it, which happens to me every time I come home with bags of bulky groceries.

Imagine living right next to a heavy lift door being slammed into place every ten minutes. Being slammed into place because that’s what the instructions tell you to do. Bonus: when you slam it into place, it can rebound a tiny bit. Yes, this is just enough to then prevent the lift from being called.

If the sign writer had known the distinction between ‘fully’ and ‘firmly’ we would all have easier lives.

If you’re wondering why the sign hasn’t been changed, it’s because that is not the Kiwi way. We do not complain to building management because that would be too confrontational, and would imply someone was to blame. Instead we mutter our grievances under our breath. Or write blog posts.

Also, please note the glass window in the lift door. This allows me to sleep at night, knowing it is therefore unlikely I will be trapped inside it for a month and die with bloody fingertips, surrounded by a million scratches in the lift walls. Because that is a thing that can happen.


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