Holding the Door Open

I think the world could be divided into two groups: those who hold the door for the next person and those who don't. I don't understand why some people walk through a doorway without looking behind them, letting the door slam or slide into whoever is behind them, while others pause, hold the door and often elicit a "thank you" and a smile. I'm not talking about male chivalry. Women hold doors for men and for other women. Men hold doors for men. This is about gender-neutral manners.

I wonder if the person who blithely walks through a doorway without a backward glance missed that day's lesson in manners in the home schooling curriculum. Perhaps he was simply in too much of a hurry at that moment. Given more time, at another doorway, at another time, on another day, he might have held the door. We have to take extenuating circumstances into consideration, like tight schedules and mood swings. I'm having a bad day; I can't even think about anyone else. Then there is the challenge of technology. Take iPhones, for instance. It's hard to look behind you when your eyes are focused down on the tiny text letters and you need both hands in front of you to keep the text in focus and both thumbs to send an instant reply.

And it's easy not to hear footsteps behind you, to be deaf to the world when earbuds fill your head with rock music. Or, the door slammer may not have a free hand to hold the door, no impertinence intended. I am holding my water bottle in one hand, my books in the other. What do you expect?

I am tempted to speculate further on the difference between holders and slammers. Is the door-holder more likely to volunteer at the homeless shelter, tutor poor kids or contribute to the United Way? Perhaps the door slammer is stingier, more ego-centric and less likely to have a social conscience. Maybe door holders are more likely to be Democrats and door slammers somewhat inclined to be Republicans. Who goes to church more often?

Wait a minute. I'm going too far.

Let's get back to basics. Holding the door for someone is about manners, it's about time and it's about face-to-face interactions, even when the backward glance is in profile. The exchange is often between strangers who may or may not ever see each other again. It takes a few seconds to hold the door; some are heavy and require effort. But it's not just about the door. It's about making a split-second decision whether to connect with another person -- to acknowledge their existence. I am not walking through this doorway alone -- someone has gone before me and someone will go after me. I'm not the only one in this space. If I hold the door for you, will you hold it for someone else?

Oh, thank you.