I have recently realized that I have a mild phobia of using doors in public places. Now before you laugh, let me explain because you too might be affected by this contagious social disorder. As it is virtually impossible to eliminate the use of doorways in your daily life, there is a way to manage the anxiety you feel when forced to use a door in the presence of a stranger, either coming behind you, in the opposite direction…or *gulp* going at the same pace and direction as you!
Coffee Girl’s Experience with Public Doorways:
As a Barista in a busy café, it was my responsibility to unlock the doors each morning. On weekdays, there was often a queue of the queenest-caffeine-fiends already formed outside at 6a.m. Pressed up against the windows, feet itching to get to the counter first, their frenzied energy halted as soon as I opened the doors, the coffee barely finished brewing. Suddenly the dilemma went from the Greedy-Need-To-Get-Caffeined to Who-Should-Enter-the-Café-First?!-And-Will-I-Be-Expected-to-Hold-the-Door-Open-For-Everyone-Behind-Me-Or-Just-Myself? The awaiting customers always peered over quizzically as though expecting ME to have to answer, as though enticing me to put them out of their misery and just PICK someone to go in first. But being the impartial service gal that I was expertly trained to be, doors are not my problem (since I am generally stuck for 8-10 hours behind them) and I always retreat to the counter and let the customers duke it out like the passive-aggressively-polite Canadian customers THEY are conditioned to be.
In rare cases, I will hold the door open to allow the queue to enter in a (slightly neurotic) orderly fashion. And if I sensed any growing rowdiness I would sneakily only unlock one door, forcing the extra-extra-queeners to do a double-take and resume their rightful position at the back of the line. If I got a complaint when they reached the register, I’d just shrug it off, telling them the door is out-of-service until further notice.
Working in an Office
Now that I am not safely tucked away behind the counter, getting to my office job every morning requires me to pass through three sets of doorways. On my first day of work, I was greeted by a confused-glare from a fellow employee when I did not hold the door open for him. In my defense, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to hold the door open for him, I’d just noted that his pace was quite a bit slower than my swift, efficient Coffee Girls trot, and I had already deemed him as outside My-Acceptable-Door-Holding-Vicinity (approximately 10-15 feet in front/behind me). However, later that day I was quick to notice that in office culture, no matter how far away/granny-paced the individual is, Office-Acceptable-Door-Holding-Vicinity seems to mean anyone within eye sight, including those across the street/stopping to have a conversation with Martha, the HR lady/stalling on the way to a business meeting/NO EXCEPTIONS!
Awkward in the Doorway
Again, it is not that I dislike going through the doorway with my turtle-paced colleagues, it’s just that I feel like I am alone in my intense awkwardness to master this delicate art. For example, when I wait twenty-five aggrivating seconds for the finance lady from the third floor to saunter in, she will now be ahead of me. The dilemma morphs into: Who will open the next door? Do I engage in coversation? Share a “Case-of-Mondays” shrug? I am always relieved when the person behind me is carrying something, since then the choice is obvious: I will be the door-holder for the duration of our seemingly-endless journey together, until we are parted by another floor. Oh, sweet relief!
The Door-Holding Greeting Exchange
Because I am new to the building, I still haven’t figure out what part of the building the majority of my colleagues (aka annoying door cloggers) work. I have no idea where they are going after we have (awkwardly) made it through the lobby doorways. If I say goodbye too early and they continue to walk with me, then there are several seconds of dead air, where eye contact must be avoided because I have already severed our door-holding-corridor-walking relationship. If we end up in the same place, I will then have to smoothly insert a witty “fancy seeing you here!” or “are you following me, stranger?”, then we will usually have a jovial laugh together. If I see that person later, we will now have a shared experience to remise over. I now believe that awkward lobby door interactions are the basis of all appropriate office relationships. And if heaven forbid you have a negative doorway encounter, well, let’s hope you don’t have to schmooze near them in the snackroom, cuz that could take months of peppy office rapport and proper door etiquette to smooth over!
If I know the person is going in a different direction, now is the time when I can speed up and hope to avoid any other door traffic until I reach the safety of my office. Phew!
After You… No After you…No I insist, After YOU!
This annoying game of courtesy can go on and on forever. But who will be the first to muster up the courage to give in and just say: “Yes, you’re right, after me…sucka!”. I feel a lot of time and productivity is lost because so many employees are stuck in this endless repetition for far too long. Am I not alone in wanting to STOP THE MADNESS!? We had it right in Kindergarten we when we weren’t afraid to claim our spot in the line for the slide, or push ahead for a chance on the swings. Finders keepers does not quite seem so immature anymore when it comes to claiming my right to walk through the doorway in peace.
To be the Door-Holder or the Door-Enterer?
If I’m walking with a group of people, I will generally quicken my pace so that I can be the door-holder. In my recent experience, I find that I get props for holding the door open for everyone, including the coffee-runners, late-comers, wheel-chair-riders and their drivers, copy boys and girls, and little children wandering in with their uber-pregant mommies going to see “where daddy works!”. To be the holder, means you will only have to endure a brief moment of warm-awkward hellos before you can melt invisibly at the back of the flow and go at your own, invisible pace…while being hailed as the door-holding hero! Ha HA!
Coffee Girl’s Biggest Tip:
Since I am already well-conditioned to be an early bird, like the service gal I will always be at heart, I have no trouble arriving very early to work. There’s nothing better then reaching my office alone, unlocking the door with my very own electronic code, and then slamming the door behind me! Though, now I am well conditioned to look left, right, and all directions with a smile, before walking through any type of opening.
NOW WHERE’S MY COFEEE?!
(AND Please don’t ask me my thoughts on Revolving Doors…!)