Episode 230: December 23, 2012
Out and About
by Richie Frieman
As you probably know, most Modern Manners Guy articles and podcasts come from true stories and real life experiences. Many times it's a reader or friend that emails me with an idea of something they just witnessed, such as What To Do If You're Stood Up? or, Job Interview Etiquette, or Improper New Year’s Resolutions. But the majority of the time, it's something I've personally had the unfortunate luck to experience.
Today’s episode is no exception. I was on my way to get my morning coffee. I got within five feet of the door to the coffeehouse as another guy was coming in. Instead of holding the door open for me (as is standard practice in polite society), he slammed it in my face.
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Okay, so maybe "slammed" is a dramatic interpretation. Maybe it was more along the lines of “let it go.” And it’s not that I couldn't easily open the door myself. But it was just shocking that someone would be so careless. In case you're wondering, he did see me, and I gave them the evil eye as we stood uncomfortably next to each other at the counter.
"Yeah, remember me? Looks like we got here the same time, buddy!"
So with that, let's explore this subtle act of kindness that sometimes gets overlooked. Here are my top 3 Quick and Dirty Tips for proper door holding etiquette:
Tip #1: We're Not All Doormen, But...
The manners of a doorman are often overlooked, but I think they’re the unsung heroes of the etiquette world. Day in and day out, hour after hour, they stand and open doors for millions of people a year, and many times never hear even a "Thank you."
What a disgrace! And I may add, I've never met a doorman who was not
cheerful, despite weather or mood.
bothered by how many times they have to open the door or the length of time to hold it open.
It's uncanny, the patience they have. And I've witnessed many people act like the door was holding itself as they stormed out of the building, glasses on so no one can make eye contact with them, whipping their scarf around their necks with more attitude than a teenager being told to put their cell phone down at dinner. But still, the doorman smiles, holds the door open, and waits for another person to assist. Why can't we all just take a tip from our friend, Mr. Doorman and actually not be bothered by holding the door open for someone? Are we that busy? That insensitive?
Take my earlier coffeehouse experience. I was going to the same place as the rude door dropper and arrived to the counter at the same time as him. The place was empty, so there was no rush to get in line first. But still, he couldn’t have cared less.
When you see someone coming up behind you to a door, it's always proper – and takes little to no effort – to simply hold the door until they arrive. If they wave you off and say "No thanks," then so be it. No harm, no foul. However, there is a big foul if you are too much in a rush to wait for someone only a yard or two behind you. No one, I mean, NO ONE is that busy they can't extend their arm for five seconds.
Tip #2: Weather Permitting
I know what you're thinking: "What if it's rainy or snowing outside and I don't want to get wet, and they are taking forever?"
This is a very common concern. After all, you can only wait so long, right? As I said in Tip #1, it's no sweat to wait a few seconds for someone, but what if it's storming out and your holding the door for someone else will make you drenched. Never mind that you are going to work and don't want to show up soaking wet just because you didn't want some stranger to think you were rude. I get that. I totally do.
But there are certain things we have to consider. For example, I vividly remember this past September when I was going into the coffee shop (again, yes, I know, I have a problem) and it was pouring buckets! I mean, it was coming from above, below, the sides, you name it. My small umbrella and raincoat were defenseless. It was also 6am and so I was not only getting soaked from just opening my car door but also would have to sit in the wet outfit all day. There I was holding the door for someone who was just getting out of their car. But as I'm holding it, with my full body in the store, and my arm out the door, getting pelted with rain, I see this woman not only stop as she gets out (odd, since we're getting soaked) but then apparently looking for something in her pockets as the rain is pouring down. Maybe her keys? Maybe her wallet? I don't know. But yes, I'm still standing there. Here is a time when you have to sit back and really put the situation in perspective. I am getting soaked just to be mannerly and hold the door for someone, but this person doesn’t care that I’m putting myself out and instead of saying, "No, that's okay, I'll be a while," continue to keep me waiting. This is not okay. I mean, everyone has their limit.
If you find your manners being taken advantage of, whether in the rain, sleet, or snow…or sunshine and rainbows, you can be justified in letting the door go. Whereas the doorman has a job to do, in this situation, our only job is to be mannerly towards fellow man. So in this case we must be reasonable.
Here's the rule: If the person you are trying to help is clearly not showing any consideration toward your efforts, you can in fact let the door go. Just smile, wave, and they'll understand. Again, you don't owe them anything and you did your job just by trying. You are not to be taken advantage of just because you're more polite than they are. Chances are if someone does not want to hurry up to take your kind gesture, they won't want to show thanks for anything you do.
Tip #3: Helping Those in Need
One thing I love to do is take my daughter with me to get coffee. (Yes, another coffee example…What can I say, I'm writing this at 7AM and am already on my second large coffee. The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?)
Anyway, my daughter is four, so she doesn't drink coffee, but she loves to get a little snack from the coffee shop while I enjoy my cup. And now that I have a baby boy, I bring him in a stroller on these dates. Being the ultra-hip, modern dad, I can maneuver that stroller like a pizza chef twirling a large mass of dough. I have my daughter in one hand and the stroller cruising in the other…until I get to a door of the coffee shop. Ah, the door – the arch enemy to the stroller.
Usually, I can back myself in, pushing with my rear and pulling the stroller, hoping for the assistance of someone who sees me. Most of the time, a kind coffee drinker holds the door open for me as I struggle, but sometimes no one helps me. I mean, you don't see me with a stroller and two young children? I know you do. I see you pretending not to see me.
As a manners expert, I often look for opportunities to help people in public, when I can. I've seen the lone parent trying to push the stroller through a door and jumped to help. Why not? I'm not that busy and I won't lose my place in line, so it’s not a big deal. As well, when an elderly person needs help, there should not be a shortage of people jumping to assist them. It infuriates me that people let others in need struggle, at anything, let alone when the simple answer is to lend a hand for a whopping five seconds!
When you see someone who may be carrying something in their hands, or can't physically open a door themselves, it's only proper to lend a hand. Especially if you are right next to the door. Even if this means you will be a meaningless 10 seconds late, so be it. You are doing a good deed. And when you have to rush to the door for someone because the person closest to that door who can help, refuses to, I like to make it known. I speak a little bit louder than normal and say, "Wait, I'll get it! Here you go, I'll hold that door for you. It's a shame you had to wait this long." And I do hope that the person close by who is too rude to help, hears me loud and clear.
Do you have a great story about how holding the door for someone went wrong? Post all the details in the comment section below or on the Modern Manners Guy Facebook page.
As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.