ARE YOU COMFORTABLE riding in an elevator? How about a crowded elevator? Are you claustrophobic? Does it seem like every prime-time TV series about rescue squads features people trapped in an “out of control cage,” putting lives at stake.

We don’t have very many elevators in rural America that traverse more than four floors, but most of us visit large cities on occasion and find ourselves faced with a decision as to whether we should ride the elevator or walk up the stairway.

Those that do walk up 12 flights of stairs don’t admit any fears; they just say they did it for the exercise.

In a 34-year-old issue of The Rotarian magazine Australian humorist David Pain wrote about the “Laws of Ups and Downs.” Here’s what Pain had to say.

Pain made a study of those people who become uncomfortable in a crowded elevator. “Do you feel like you’re in a can of vertical sardines?”

Pain said a crowded elevator is one of the few places remaining in this world of ours where the laws, though unwritten, are not often broken.

The first law, wrote Pain, is not talking while riding. If you must talk, whisper. When the elevator stops, a person gets on, but no one dares to speak. You may smile or nod your head, but that’s it.

The second law said if you are talking and someone gets on the elevator, stop talking. After all, you don’t know the new rider. The new rider might be a psychopathic killer and any communications might trigger a reaction.

The most popular rule for a crowded elevator is that as soon as you step inside the elevator, you must turn abruptly and face toward the door. He’s right, of course.

Any person not facing forward is considered weird, eccentric or up to (or down to) no good. No one wants to be unsociable and draw unnecessary attention to themselves.

If the elevator suddenly sways a fraction of an inch and you brush against the lady standing next to you, this could be considered a serious violation of elevator etiquette. Depending who the person is, it may cause an international incident.

If you’re lucky, she will shrug it off, but if she coughs and steps aside, you might be warned she didn’t appreciate your slip, accidental as it might have been.

Just wondering. When you got on the elevator, you noticed the warning sign saying the cage has a limit of 1,000 pounds. If there are already five people inside the elevator and you suspect the total weight is already at least 950 pounds, do you dare point this fact out should the elevator stop on another floor and two more people want to join you?

Another rule is don’t make eye contact with any other rider. It’s a law. Don’t do it. Another is if you just ate garlic, use the stairs.

Here’s a law no one breaks. When riding an elevator, always look up at the lights. You know floors go four, five, six, seven, but you have to watch the lights to make sure. So does everyone else. No one should ever press the number 13. Press 12 and walk up that last floor.

When the elevator stops to admit another passenger and they say “I’m only going down three floors. Would you press eight, please?”

You may wonder “Why can’t they do it?” Just do it. Usually the person closest to the control panel becomes the elevator operator. Anyone else pressing the button might break one of the other laws.

In a crowded elevator, never scratch an itch. It’s just going to have to wait. Imagine the problems you might create if you accidentally scratch someone else’s itch.

A cardinal rule that can’t be broken is talking about previous elevator accidents such as being trapped in one during a power failure.

Just because one elevator fell 43 floors, killing eight people, is no reason to bring up the subject at that moment.

Of course, that’s one way of clearing out an elevator.

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HAVE YOU ever rushed to judgment and assumed someone was guilty before proven innocent? Let this short story be a lesson.

The wedding ceremony came to the point where the minister asked if anyone has anything to say concerning the union of the bride and groom. The moment of utter silence was broken when a beautiful young woman carrying a child stood up. She started walking slowly toward the minister.

The congregation was aghast. You could almost hear a pin drop. The groom’s jaw dropped as he stared in disbelief at the young woman and child. Chaos ensued.

The bride threw her bouquet into the air and burst out crying. Then the groom’s mother fainted. The best men started giving each other looks and wondered how to save the situation.

The minister asked the woman “Can you tell us why you came forward? What do you have to say?” There was silence in the church.

The woman replied “We can’t hear you in the back.”