too polite

The building where I work, like most office buildings in NYC, has a bank of elevators.  They are always busy.  It’s an unwritten rule that women enter and exit elevator cars before men.  A gallant rule.  The lobby elevators at street level are a short distance to the heavy building doors.  When exiting the building, if a woman steps out of the elevator first, she is automatically the first one to the building doors, which she must heave open. Good elevator etiquette trumps door-opening etiquette, the first act of politeness preventing the second act.  I’ve not asked any females which they’d prefer, following a man out of the elevator and having the building door opened for her, or the reverse.

To get into the hallway where my office is located on the 11th floor, you’ve got to enter a four digit code into a keypad beside an entrance door.  There are dozens of individual offices inside and it’s a security precaution.  As it’s a busy office space, it’s not unusual that someone coming off the elevator is behind you, or in front of you.  If you’ve arrived to the door first and someone is behind you, it’s only polite to hold the door, even though the door swings back slowly with an automatic closure.

If someone is five or seven feet back when you gain entrance to the locked door, you might hold the door open for that person so they can forgo code punching.  But if the person is fifteen feet back or more, do you still hold the door?  Some do, thereby creating the feeling that the person approaching the door needs to pick up the pace, or start a slight jog to show a reciprocated politeness at the door being held from a distance.  Yet others don’t hold, keeping it less complicated by not looking back and maintaining a limited peripheral vision.

I’ve got the door closure timing down.  At 12-15 feet away when the door starts swinging closed, most people could easily get to the door before it closes, waddlers excepted.  When someone holds the door for me at that distance, I try to tell them to let go, “I’ve got it” wishing they would not be so polite.  When they hold, I’ve got to politely show a faster pace when I could have easily made it at my own pace.  Truth is, I like timing the door closure and adjusting my pace accordingly.  The act of being too polite thwarts that small thrill.

Such trivial mundane nuances, better never thought about.  But it does bring another unwritten rule to mind, when in doubt error on the side of politeness.  How can the door holder know that the person 10 feet back would rather time the door closure than having it held, most likely by a woman, who arrived first as a result of good elevator etiquette.

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