In this blog post, I critique the modern door, it’s place in our lives, and the social awkwardness that results. I propose a simpler system of door management, providing greater efficiency, hygiene and social satisfaction.
The door is everywhere. To call it common is an injustice – it is as ubiquitous as the air we breathe, the water we drink, the taxes we owe. It is in our homes, our offices, our transport. It keeps us safe while we sleep, while we drive. It is our protection against the room next door, and the world outside.
The door is part of our vocabulary, our language. We “open doors”, we “close a deal”. We have an “open door policy”. We swing them open, we slam them shut. The door is our slave and our servant. The door is our bitch.
But the door is also our enemy. It attacks us, it frustrates us, it makes us look like fools.
The Toilet Door
The toilet door is my nemesis, the number one on my list of dastardly doors. And I’m not even talking about the cubicle door, that never gives you enough room to close without brushing your legs against the outside of the toilet bowl.
Nor even, the American cubicle door, starting a mighty three feet from the ground to allow full thigh viewing from urinal alley, and the inch-wide gap between the door and walls. One wonders whether Americans in public toilets in England feel lonely in their out-of-sight claustrophobic boxes. But these are not my primary concern.
My target is the exit door. The exit door? you ask. The exit door, I nod.
When leaving the toilet, or bathroom, or restroom, or outhouse, or water-closet, or so forth, the typical gentleman (for this is all I am permitted to observe), will customarily choose one of the following options. He will either wash his hands, or he will not wash his hands.
I shall not question the wisdom of the non-washers. Presumably they believe their hands to be unsullied by their efforts, usually involved in a mere “reveal-tug-dangle” gesture followed by the “tug-shake-tuck”. An inspection of the spray-deck in the men’s urinals does not reassure me that hands are quite as sanitary as their conscience. But I do not judge, I shall simply note that this practice exists and is commonplace.
A washer, indeed myself, would avail himself of the facilities, providing of course, and this is not always the case, that the washing facilities are cleaner than the sewage facilities. Equipment provided is usually an unpleasant soap, scaldingly hot water in one tap, lukewarm water in another tap, based around a basin area. The controls on the taps are judged to encourage the maximum use of water, such that there will always be one tap running for no apparent reason, which is impossible to shut off.
Once hands are adequately washed, one would look for the hand-drying facilities. These are allocated on a ratio of one drying unit to every three washing units, on the basis of physics completely unknown to science: that it is quicker to dry your hands than to wet them. The drying units will have been provided further back into the toilet area, to encourage awkward confrontations with other toiletting members of the public, and to generally persuade the user into joining the wet-hands-exit, wipe-on-trousers masses.
Further encouragement into this camp is provided by the drying unit. This has a fifty percent chance of existing, a forty percent chance of working, and a ten percent chance of actually doing any drying, since models manufactured before 2005 seemed to be modelled on the average drunk’s morning breath. Of course, you may just have one of those clever Dyson units, which are really neat but still leave a few drops on the fingertips don’t they?
Doors, doors, I’m coming back to doors. The exit of a toilet is always, always, always a pull door. Always.
Why. Why why why. I’ve just spent four seconds exquisitely washing, and four hours slowly drying, my clean clean hands. And now you’re asking me to grab hold of a door handle that has been held by every “tug-shake-tugger” and “wet-hand-wiper” who’s ever been in here.
That handle is never cleaned either. When the attendant (not a cleaner, never a cleaner), when the attendant comes to check the facilities, he (or she) will wedge the door open with their mop-bucket, and give a quick wipe to the spray deck. But we know they never check behind the opened door. That’s why that cock you drew in 2005 is still on that cubicle door over there. Wasn’t funny then, isn’t funny now.
To make matters worse, there’s often two doors as well. In case you waited long enough for someone else to come in (don’t ever try that), you’d still have the second to contend with. Your hands will be soiled when you head back to your table, and your hamburger/nuts/asparagus/finger food. It’s disgusting.
It’s disgusting and the door is at fault. Remove the door. Or let them be pushed, so I can kick it open. Either way, when we all die of goldfish-flu, this blog post is my “I told you so”.
See what I did there? Clever, isn’t it. But not as clever as the build regulations that state that fire doors must be installed throughout buildings, and that those doors need to be closed at all times.
Which gives us the corridor doors. Harmless enough, just a barrier between you and where you want to be. Just give them a push.
Or is it a pull?
Hope it’s a push anyway, I mean, I’m carrying an armful of stuff.
But, hey, it’s got a handle. It’s a pull. One of those simple, clear, obvious rules of life. Right?
Wrong. Fifty percent of the time, your average push door is going to have a handle. Why? We don’t know. Maybe they’re future-proofing against change. Maybe the unions are in on it. In fact, if the door swings both ways, it’s even more likely to have handles. And most people will pull the doors, which is both awkward, and inconvenient. And unbelieveably, even though they pull to go through it one way, and pull to go through the other way, most people will never realize the doors go both ways. At this point, the door is looking cleverer than we are.
And one more point lost by humanity, to the door, is locks. Not the bold padlock, or the fancy chubb. No, I mean the slot locks at the top and bottom of the door. For we all know that when opening a set of doors in any building, the caretaker, janitor, or security guy will only ever open one of the two. God knows why – maybe they only see the doors at night, when they’re used by one person at a time. Next thing you know, you’ve got a hundred people pushing on both sides, before trying to squeeze through, ten abreast. Certainly at my school it was a regular scrum to get between classes, there’d be a cry of “bundle!” and a whiff of Hillsborough in the morning. This is how I lost all my teeth. True story.
What an amazing invention it is, the automatic door. Sliding briskly aside as we approach, it is hard to believe that this work-driven slave to our presence could be a bad omen.
It is more of a trojan horse. For you never know how long it’ll take to open. And it’s always slightly longer than you’d like. Maybe the sensors are just waiting for you to get close enough, so you have to pause, wait, and then go on. It’s winding us up, little by little.
Either that, or they’re waaay too sensitive. You want to hang around in the warmth of the hotel lobby? Sure, but you’ll get looks, because even a hundred yards into this room, and you’re keeping the doors open. The doors will alert other visitors to this faux-pas, by inching in slightly, as if to say “have you moved yet”, before opening again. They’re playing a game, and they always win.
Lift doors, or elevators to our American friends, are widely know to be evil incarnate. Who knows what will appear behind those doors? Will there be a lift car, or will we fall to oblivion? Will they close at all, without us squeezing uncomfortably backwards into a lawsuit from Debbie in Accounts? This is why we face forward. We need to keep an eye on the door, but we also need to be able to push backwards without going face to face.
Automatic doors may not be killers, but they will add to your stress levels in a thousand different ways.
In this brave new world of unwritten etiquette, it is the men who suffer most. Do we buy dinner without asking, or should we split it. The success of the date depends on it. If she suggests splitting it, do we refuse? And if so, how many times? And the only thing we know for certain is that we’re not going home without paying something. It’s a lose-lose situation.
And so it is with the door. In days gone by, it would be appropriate to hold the door for a lady. Nay, it would be appropriate to open the door with gusto, and to wave the lady through.
Now, we’re in a quagmire. We all try to hold the door. Even when it’s not actually convenient. Especially when it’s not convenient. We hold it for guys, girls, and in case we can’t see anyone, a passing breath of air. I am not even going to cover the long distance holders, for whom you must race to be helped, for I think they’ve been dealt with repeatedly.
But it’s madness. Every time someone opens a door for me and waves me through I feel like wrenching out his throat and hanging it from the door frame. It’s a door, not a ten tonne weight! I’ve got it. I’ve got it.
Am I carrying heavy bags? No. Am I in some way unable to open the door myself? No. Am I wearing a hot dress that you’ve like to check out from the back? Not usually! Let me handle the door myself, and get out of my way!
The worst cretins, the real bastards, are the guys who try to hold a door open from the wrong side, while standing in it. I don’t even credit them with a throat-ripping. I give them a “what kind of plant life are you” look, and send them straight to hell. Girls, it doesn’t just happen to you (though I bet it’s a lot more frequent), it happens to everyone.
Let’s just agree now. You want to go through a door, go through it. After you’ve gone through, if someone else is about, just hold it open a second longer (just one!), and let go. Your friend has it from there.
It’s a door. We can take it on alone. It won’t kill us (unless it’s a toilet door). It won’t hurt us (unless we’re getting slammed by an automatic). It can’t chop us into tiny little pieces (unless it’s a revolving door). It’s no obstacle (unless it’s a corridoor). And we can get through it together (unless you’re holding it for me).
Or we can just move to Hawaii, where they don’t need doors. Personally, I’m on the next plane.