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Just Open the Damn Door!

One of my recent observations of daily life is the extreme distaste many people seem to have for opening doors in public places, particularly the big heavy glass and metal doors found in stores and office buildings.

Many of these doors are now equipped with handicapped buttons that you can push so that the door will open automatically.  Of course, these are a real convenience for individuals with an actual physical handicap or elderly people who simply don't have the strength anymore to easily open them, but it is depressing to me to see how many young and apparently perfectly fit people use them, instead of simply using their hands to push the door open manually.

For one thing, it takes probably thirty seconds for one of these doors to open once you have pressed the button.  I don't know about you, but I have better things to do with my time than stand around waiting for a door to open.  I have always followed the philosophy that time is the one thing we only get so much of and will never get one second more (and we will never know until the end just how much of it we will be allocated), so you need to spend it wisely.

Recently I was leaving my local library walking behind a gentleman ahead of me.  He seemed no older and possibly younger than I am and certainly appeared to be in better trim than I am.  However, when he reached the library door, he stopped to press the handicapped button.

Now, I didn't say anything (I have learned from long experience that it is a waste of time to get in an argument with someone whose actions have already shown that they are impossible to reason with), but as he pressed the button, the man saw me roll my eyes in annoyance.  Also, fortunately, there was a double set of doors, so instead of waiting for the right-hand door to open and my lazy friend to go through it, I simply swung to the left to go through the other door.

I will admit that this person at least showed some pangs of conscience and said apologetically to me, "Those doors are SO heavy and you're young and sprightly."  I just replied, "I'm 55" as I zoomed through the other door.

Of course, I have found that it can be just as irritating to be in front of one of these sloths as behind them.  Often when I near the door of a store or another large building, I can hear the sound of the footsteps of a person behind me speed up so they can take advantage of my opening the door.  If you have the energy to walk faster, why not save it instead just to continue to walk at your normal pace and then open the door yourself if necessary?

Oh, and this reminds me of another all too common habit that is not merely lazy but downright rude.  Sometimes a door will be so heavy that you actually have to get behind the door as you open it to get a proper grip on the handle and then when you have it completely open, you will have to swing your body back around the door to enter the building.

Now if someone comes along in the meantime, it is certainly a nice thing to invite them to enter first and hold the door open for them until they do.  However, a lot of characters don't bother to wait for an invitation but just rush ahead of you through the opening that you were creating for your own benefit.  Once I got so exasperated by this that I shouldered the guy aside so I could go in first and had to hear him behind me complaining to his friend about how rude I had been!

But, let's get back to the speed kings.  Not long ago when I was getting ready to leave a store, I noticed another shopper starting to follow me to the door.  Just as an experiment, shortly before I reached the door, I stopped and pretended to be interested in a nearby display.  He stopped as well.  I waited a few seconds and then started for the door again.  So did he!  Once again, I paused and veered away from the entrance.  And again, so did my shadow.  After a few more seconds, the guy finally went through the door first, no doubt reluctantly abandoning the hope of avoiding the onerous burden of opening the door himself.

On another occasion when I was in law school, someone followed me through a door and I did another of my little experiments.  This was a big set of double steel and glass doors for one of the large campus common buildings, one of those used to keep a minimum of the hot or cold air from outside from getting inside the building.

So once I got past the first door, instead of going straight those the next door in front of me on the right, I deliberately took the longest possible route and cut a diagonal to the second door farthest on the left.  Sure enough, the fellow followed right behind me, willing to walk the extra steps in order to avoid having to open the other, closer, door himself.

You know, I have actually seen people who hover around doorways until someone else exits (or enters) and then follows them in or out.  Talk about having too much time on your hands!

Have so many people really become so lazy in this country that having to open a large door themselves becomes such an enormous chore?

I will admit that I have thought of another explanation for this odd behavior that makes a certain kind of noodle-headed sense.  Maybe people don't want to open doors themselves, not because they are slackers, but for sanitary reasons, they simply don't want to expose themselves to the germs that maybe thousands of previous users of the door have left behind on the door knob or handle.

True, the more you expose yourself to other people, particularly to surfaces that they have touched with their bare hands, the more likely you are to catch some illness as a result.  (I myself am proof of this.  When I used to ride the Washington Metro train to work for more than five years, crammed in with dozens of other riders each day, I often came down with two or three or more colds every year.  Now that I ride my bike one mile to work, alone, I might come down with one such ailment a year-and last year I escaped completely untouched.  I am forced to take a plane flight once a year, which is even more risky with the recirculated air and often come down with something soon afterwards.

But frankly I think the benefits of avoiding illness by not opening the doors of public places are fairly trivial.  If you really want to avoid getting sick, you'd be much better off staying home and not seeing anyone, living in a plastic bubble, or by wearing a CBW suit all the time.  Better off from a health standpoint, of course, worse off from any other quality of life measurement.

Questions, comments,  compliments, objections about the above? The Oldest & Wisest wants to know!  Email him at