Monday, December 1, 2014

My Problems With People And Doors

William Henry Margetson, At the Cottage Door, via Wikimedia Commons

What could be simpler than going through a door? And yet: doors are a site of contestation in my inner life.

Problem 1: The perverse and pointless door crunch tango

My first problem with people and doors arises in the context of a bank of glass doors. You know: you're entering or exiting a large space, like a mall, or a subway station, or (cough cough) a university building, and there are three or four or six doors all in a row.

I try to stay to the right -- and you could do a whole blogpost about this, I think, is staying on the right in pedestrian contexts a thing? but passons... -- but mostly I try to go through doors that other people are not attempting to go through. That is, if I'm about to go through door X, and I see someone coming toward me through the glass from the other side like they're about to come through door X, I shift to go through door Y.

So far so good. But then some non-trivial percentage of the time, the perverse opposite happens, by which I mean that a person seeing me trying to go through door X decides this is a great moment to go through door X themselves. So that we have to pass through a single door going in opposite directions at the same time For No Reason. Even more infuriatingly, sometimes if I shift to go through door Y, as above, the person on the other side will themselves shift to go through door Y. What causes this utter perversity in door-related behavior?

I can only come up with one theory. And that is that by going through the same door I'm going through, instead of a different door, the other person is hoping to avoid the strain and hassle of opening a door for themselves.

If this is even close to right, it's mind-boggling. And it's made more so by the fact that I often have this experience when I'm on campus surrounded by university students. What, are they so weakened and worn down from being on social media and avoiding their work that they can no longer opens doors on their own?

The door crunch tango conclusion: Not my fault. Everyone else's fault.

Problem 2: the ambiguous holder/blocker

My second problem with people and doors is when there isn't a bank of doors, there isn't even a pair of doors, there's just the one door, and someone is coming through it toward you as you're getting ready to pass through it the other way, and that person tries to hold the door by standing in the doorway holding the door open behind them.

I don't get this. So now I'm standing there, and the door is open, but you are in it. WTF?

I usually try to smile and gesture like "oh go ahead" hoping the person will take the hint and move along and I can, you know, go through the door all by myself, which is something I know how to do. Sometimes it works. But sometimes it's a stalemate, and the other person stands there goggling at me, like "but I'm holding the door for you."

This problem has the obvious gendered component, that sometimes it's a guy you don't know standing in the door, and you're a woman hoping to go through the door, and the way he's holding it open, you'd have to smush yourself all up against him to get through. And you have to wonder: is this guy just hoping for a casual, unwanted smush? Gross.

The holder/blocker conclusion: these people are probably just trying to be nice, but I don't have to like it.

Problem 3: the person you're not walking with who just holds a door

You'd think if someone is walking ten feet or so ahead of me and we're going in the same direction and we're going through the same door and that person pauses in the door to just hold it back for me so I can catch it as I go through before passing through myself that at least that would be the kind of reasonable, nice, normal door-related interaction a person like me should be able to get behind, but for some reason even having the door held for me can annoy the hell out of me.

Usually it happens when I'm 1) lost in thought 2) not in a rush and 3) tired of interacting with people all day long. I'm in my own headspace. If the person is right ahead of me, it's fine, but often they're a bit ahead, and they pause there, and I have to decide whether I'm going to rush to the door so they don't have to stand there holding it longer than necessary or whether I'm going to mosey in my own sweet slow way even though they're standing there. Either way is annoying. And if I've been talking to people all day, even that little "Oh, thanks" "Oh, my pleasure" or whatever feels like too much interaction. Just let me me listen to my headphones and pass through the door alone.

The door holder conclusion: I'd be a better person if I could just chill and smile and say thanks without treating every situation like a goddamn federal case. But sorry: no can do.

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