The Weekly Geek: Elevator action (or lack thereof)

Do you ever wonder why people are compelled to act so awkwardly when we find ourselves in close quarters with strangers? For example, why do we all act like anti-social weirdos, staring at the ceiling when we ride in elevators? Turns out, it’s evolutionary.

Biologist Dario Maestripieri has a truly fascinating little feature over at Wired detailing his research on macaque monkeys and their oddly similar behavior. According to his research, our discomfort with strangers in closed spaces is a primate-wide trait — and though the elevator is a new invention (evolutionarily speaking), being in small spaces with other primates is not (think caves!). It behooves us to make small talk or to ignore each other entirely — avoiding any risk of violent contact.

In fact, when the monkeys in Maestripieri’s study made successful friendly contact — initiated by the macaque equivalent of a smile — they engaged in grooming activity, which sounds pretty excellent, all things considered:

One monkey brushes and cleans the other’s fur, gently massaging the skin and picking and eating parasites. Grooming can both relax and appease another monkey, virtually eliminating the chance of an attack.

You wouldn’t bite your masseuse, would you?

There are also plenty of implications for more attractive members of a given species interested in more amorous encounters. Hey, maybe the “massage-as-seduction” that worked so well in When Night Is Falling is actually a valid tactic.

OK, so maybe I’m a total neuro-nerd, but I find evolutionary basis of behavior to be enthralling. The next time I’m stuck in an elevator with an attractive gay-vibe giving lady, I’ll totally chalk up my lame-o attempts at joking and making small talk to my genetics. After all, mating behaviors are among our longest running (and most successful!) activities.

Aside from learning about primates, another dorky news bit made my geekdar this week. Earlier this week, Dorothy Snarker told us about the possibility of a new Buffy film. The Hollywood Reporter has scuttlebutt regarding a “darker” Buffy re-boot, in the form of an “event-sized” movie. Only this time around, everyone’s favorite lesbian witch, Willow, will be out of the picture (along with most of the supporting cast, actually), and Joss Whedon will have no part in the production.

The original cast — and original writers — absolutely made the series what it was. Plus, the production company working with Fran Rubel Kuzui (the original film’s director) and her husband, Kaz Kuzui, on this new iteration is Vertigo Entertainment, mostly known for horror films such as The Grudge triology and the particularly terrible J-horror rip off The Eye.

I’m only a moderate Buffy fanatic, and even I’m about ready to dust off the old stake in protest.