Sunday, July 15, 2007
I open the door and take a quick glance behind. Now this glance is only to check that there is no one directly behind me. It’s not some grand commitment to hold the door open for whoever might next come along. But whatever the intention of the glance, it can bring with it clumsy etiquette baggage.
The problem occurs when there is someone walking towards the door behind you at what is called middle-distance. That is they are stuck between two categories, these being, A) close enough so that it’s clear that I should hold the door open until they get there and B) being far enough away that I can move on and let the door close behind me without having committed any kind of social spunk.
Trouble is, it’s not always immediately obvious as to which category the person may be in. Often the second taken to ascertain this may have moved them from category B to the dirty cusp of category A. Uncertainty means I often just have to stand there and bare it. Now you may be asking ‘Why is it a problem to lose seven seconds of your life holding a door open?’ although your probably asking ‘What the fuck you going on about Matt?’, either way let me tell you. This assumes the person the door is being held open for is unknown to me, or at the very most a distant acquaintance. In this situation, holding open a door for someone for over five seconds puts undue social pressure on both parties.
One of the worst case scenarios is that I, as the holder of the door put unwelcome pressure on the person, who never asked for a door to be held open for them, to arrive quickly. The person may affect a clumsy mini-jog, as they feel it is only good manners to limit the time I am standing there. But this mini-jog will trigger a resentment in them, an angry flash in the eyes at me, the person who forced them to move quicker than they would want to. This makes me then feel worse than if I had slammed the door in their face or murdered their cat.
One option I call “Don’t Look Back”. I called it that because I‘m sad enough to have named options available to people when they open doors. Here you just stare resolutely forwards, your mission is to get through the door, all other considerations are brushed aside. This is military, this is focus. Open the door, don’t look back, go through the door. Yes you can hold out your arm behind you as you walk on giving the door an extra second of open if you sense that someone is very close behind you, but chances are that door may have closed in someone’s face. It doesn’t matter, you didn’t see that happen, and if you didn’t see it, it might as well not have happened.
The only real solution is to avoid walking through doors altogether. I know this sounds drastic and impractical but sometimes it seems in life there’s every need to be drastic and impractical. So until somebody comes up with a better idea, I’m not stepping out of bed.