It was time to check out of the hotel I was staying at in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I was on the 24th floor, and everyone in the high-rise was trying to check out or in simultaneously. The elevators were in high demand. I brought too much stuff and needed more than one trip. 

You could hear the huffing and puffing of frustrated people as they pushed the buttons only to see “try again later” on the impressive high-tech control panel before them. The night before, I strategically planned plenty of time to get to the airport and catch my plane calmly. This was an interesting predicament and a great moment to stop and observe my thoughts and how they affected my actions. Stop and Observe are the first two steps of the SOAR Strategy that I use to improve my mindset and the actions that follow. 

There must have been a sports tournament that weekend as super-tall young men and boys filled the elevators.

We were jammed in like sardines—XXL TALL sardines. When we stopped at a floor for more people to get on or off, the tall athletes did not seem to realize they were blocking the way. That’s when I heard someone whisper, “Delinquents.”

The old ego-driven me would have snapped and told that person off, but the new me, learning to control her ego, realized that this was not something I could effectively address at that moment. I witnessed a pattern of subconscious behavior. How would I improve that pattern with more judgment and hostility? Poor behavior patterns surface even more when we’re feeling stress. 

I teach ocean safety and develop junior lifeguards (future leaders). I’m taking a lifesaving message from the beach to the schools. If we’re stuck in it, we can’t get mad at and fight a strong ocean current. We’ve got to STOP, OBSERVE, and AJUST our direction to break free of a strong current in the ocean, which holds the same when stuck in a challenging situation.

These tall young men were never taught to move and let people in and out of the elevator and then hop back in if it was not on their floor. Maybe they’re nervous, having just made the team, and self-conscious around their new teammates.

Maybe that frustrated elevator rider, calling them delinquents, was bullied at school or got cut from the team as a kid? He could have a big chip on his shoulder without realizing it. 

The one thing I know for sure is that letting other people’s behavior negatively affect mine is not something I’m going to let happen anymore. I just can’t! 

I have a huge heart for kids and want to take the time to teach them simple things like paying attention in an elevator and clearing the way. The time to teach them the basics is NOW. 

It’s like teaching people CPR in a peaceful classroom so they don’t have to figure it out when an emergency happens.

The first thing I thought when I realized this elevator issue could become a problem was, Donna… You’re so stupid. Why didn’t you foresee this? Then, I decided to beat myself up for bringing too much stuff. Then, I started to think about the people in the Twin Towers on 9/11 and began to feel myself panic and become overcome by emotion. Then, I moved on to judge the people around me for bringing too much stuff as well. I even started to get mad at the hotel for a seemingly insufficient elevator system. Finally, I put my foot down and said, Donna, “it’s time to SOAR!”

This was an excellent opportunity to learn and even laugh, and then I found the whole situation inspiring and educational. I will add it to my CPR Starts with The Heart message repertoire.

I’m reposting my SOAR series of blogs, and this situation is perfect for explaining the O. Observe your thoughts and realize that you can choose better ones if necessary. 

I made the plane with plenty of time to spare. Even if I did not, there would be no benefit in letting it get to me. Also, I look forward to bringing this elevator etiquette lesson to kids. I already see them enjoying it. Those tall boys just didn’t know any better yet. 

Also, what kind of example would I set for those kids if I snapped at the gentleman whispering under his breath about delinquents? 

Let’s SOAR for the kids! 

Here’s my original O post.