Holding a door for the person walking behind you is supposedly a simple, time-endured act of kindness – meant as a polite demonstration of compassion and consideration for another human being. What few recognize, however, is the vast array of variable factors that must be thoroughly considered before door-holding: your relationship with those behind you, the distance of those behind you, the weight of the door, the formality of the venue, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
But, there’s no time for deliberation! The person behind you is approaching! I am forced into an internal war (and slight panic) every time I hear footsteps approaching as I step-ball-change my way to the other side of a door (I was a dancer as a child – this is the main way the experience manifests itself.)
“Do I know this person?” I’m forced to wonder. “If I do, I should definitely hold the door for them and chat a little. But, maybe they don’t want to chat. Am I forcing them to chat? If I keep walking am I snubbing them? Should I just speed through and not even consider the person behind me? No. That would be rude. But how far away are they? How can I tell? I’ll glance – quickly – because if it’s too slow and the person is far enough away that I shouldn’t hold the door for them, they’ll know that I know they’re there and then it will be obvious: I’ve chosen not to hold the door for them, which will look unbearably callous. Wow, this door is heavy. I am weak. Should I exert myself in order to hold the heavy door for those behind me as the heaviness would make it more rude if I let it close, thereby forcing them to re-open the heavy door? Or, would my obvious exertion be insulting as I am weak and my holding the door may indicate I think them weaker than me? Isn’t it presumptuous to assume they need my help? Who am I to hold a door for anyone?”
The main issue here is that holding a door, though seemingly “polite” is actually, nine times of out ten, unbelievable inconsiderate. The one time out of every ten that it isn’t rude to hold a door, however, is the one time it’s actually incredibly, atrociously rude not to hold the door. This is the person-directly-behind-you-oops-door-just-slammed-in-their-face fiasco, or as I like to call it, the PDBYODJSITFF. When pronounced it’s Pid Boidge Sitf – catchy, no? Let’s make it a thing, okay? – like fetch?
There is no constant rule here, folks.
But, if someone created rules, perhaps we could all band together to make them the accepted code of conduct by which all of society must abide, forever putting to bed the nerve-wracking: “Wait. Is he too far behind me? If I hold the door for him will he be forced to run so as not to make me wait too long? Am I forcing him into politeness and running? Am I forcing physical fitness? HAVE I BECOME MY HIGH SCHOOL GYM TEACHER?”
The following are the guidelines I think appropriate. Please accept them, and together we can make the world a less stressful door-holding environment.
1) If the person behind you is talking to someone else, do not hold the door. They’re having a conversation – you are not part of it. Let’s assume they will not be offended that you don’t hold the door because it would mean interrupting the conversation to thank you. And good conversation is so difficult to rekindle once interrupted. And, people can open doors for themselves, right? Assume them capable and competent – especially because there are many of them and one of you. One of them is likely to be an expert door holder – you don’t want to squelch their talent… Right? But then again, what if the person behind you now thinks your lack of door-holding is an expression of contempt – jealousy induced by their good conversation? Maybe… feel out the situation?
2) If the person behind you is someone you know, but you don’t really know, do not hold the door. If it’s Jim from your economy class and you talked about his guinea pig once, I’d say that’s fine. Ask about Marshmallow again. But briefly, with no indication that he’s indebted to you and should repay that debt in the form of conversation – because that’s extortion. If it’s that girl you think you may have had a class with once that you’re inexplicably friends with on Facebook– keep walking. Its far more polite not to make her do sentence gymnastics in an attempt not to reveal that she’s forgotten your name than to hold the door. Or is it? Because maybe she remembers your name and thinks you’re best buds and you just have an exceptionally bad memory? What then?
3) If the person behind you is more than three feet – scratch that – five feet? Maybe ten? Some constant, agreed-upon number of feet away, do not hold the door. Firstly, we need a meeting to determine the exact distance. Secondly, it should be close enough that no one feels as though they must run.
4) Something should be determined regarding chivalry vs. feminism but it’s too confusing to try to figure it out and, considering my track record, I don’t think I’d have much luck regardless.
5) Get a more qualified person to write the door-holding rules. There is a real need, here people! Why has no one gotten on this?