Friday, January 15, 2016

After you, no no, after you

The other day as I was leaving the Big Gray I encountered just about the perfect storm of social awkwardness. Normally I pride myself on being reasonably familiar with all the little unspoken rules of politely navigating the working world, how to ride on an elevator or occupy a cubicle with a modicum of respect for the comfort and sanity of fellow human beings. But sometimes circumstances conspire.

Specifically, I was a couple of steps away from pushing through the glass front doors of the office building. The doors open outward from the inside. Another person was outside the building, walking toward the doors to come in. Normally, that would lead to me opening the door and holding it open for the other person, at least, because it’s just polite courtesy, but I gauged that I was going to get to the doors about a step before the other person, which would not really leave me enough time to get through and to the far side of the door before the other person arrived. At best I’d be making them wait a beat or two, and at worst I’d be opening the door right into them. Again, this might not be a problem if the doors opened inward, in which case I could grab the handle and pull the door open and step back, allowing the other person to go through, but they don’t.

I tend to hold doors for everybody, just basically transcending any and all notions of chivalry or feminism or whatever in favor of undifferentiated human decency. (Does this make me an SJW? Discuss.) Still, there are always mitigating factors. For example, if someone is following me or converging on the door from the other side with a few seconds lag, I might be more inclined to hold the door a little longer for, say, a woman of my mother’s or grandmothers’ generation( based on what I assume their expectations might be), or for anyone wrangling one or more small children (been there, buddy). A random dude several paces behind me will probably see me cruise through the door and let it fall shut behind me. So it goes. At any rate, the person I was on a threshold-collision course with was a woman, probably within five years of my age. Should that have changed the etiquette calculus? Also she was wearing a walking cast on one foot, although it didn’t seem to be slowing her roll at all. Should that have changed the calculus? Also she was wearing BDUs! Should that have made me more likely to hold the door, because Support The Troops And All That? Or less likely, because she could kill me with her bare hands eleven different ways and she could dang well open a door for herself, too?

As it happened, in the split-second after I rattled through all of those branches of the decision tree, I decided to try to hustle through the door so that I could in fact position myself to hold the door. But as it also happened, the soldier didn’t alter her pace at all, nor break her gait, and we ended up both going through the door more or less at the same time, me against the door as I pushed it open and her squeezing past on the opposite side.

Not sure if I could have handled the situation any differently to achieve a better outcome. And I know in the grand scheme of things this was a fleeting moment of absolutely no consequence. But it did give me a chance to use yet another screencap of a classic Simpsons moment to illustrate to story, so I figured it was worth sharing.

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