How to Open a Door

Simple things are rarely really so simple. If someone were to tell you that you need some serious guidance in regards to something as mundane as opening a door, you would, understandably, scoff. But that’s exactly what I’m about to do: offer you a few tips on the correct way to open a door—because, as confident in your door-opening skills as you are, you’re going about it all wrong. Time to unlearn and relearn.

A whole host of unnecessary calculations about distance and velocity and arm length must pass through the prospective door-opener’s mind—and the inevitable result is that both parties end up doing some sort of painful dance involving feints and double-feints and mumbled apologies.

The ancient Romans had a special god for doors, and for good reason. For doors are fraught with danger both metaphysical and physical. Nowadays the art of door opening is a neglected art for the very reason that door opening is so common. Familiarity breeds contempt—and the very ubiquitousness of the activity has not sharpened our skills but dulled them, sloppified them.

Just observe next time you’re in a busy public building—just watch how people fumble through something that should be gracefully simple. It’s like they’ve never encountered a door before—like it’s some crazy new invention. You’ll see clumsy dances and macabre pantomimes, awkward social interactions and insults to common sense. The source of the problem is a lack of standardization that this article will hopefully help resolve.

First of all, we need to start making full use of double doors. When you’re entering or exiting a store or office building and you’re faced with a double door, what you need to do is make your entrance or exit through the door on the right. That way one person can enter and one person can exit at the same time.

What could be more obvious? you say. But in reality, this is not what most people do. When they meet someone opposite them coming through a double door, they try to judge which of them will get there first, and if they believe the other person will reach the doorway first, they wait for that person to open the door, and then slide through the door which has already been opened for them. What happens is only one door gets used—a tragic waste of doorage.

Plus, a whole host of unnecessary calculations about distance and velocity and arm length must pass through the prospective door-opener’s mind—and the inevitable result is that both parties end up doing some sort of painful dance involving feints and double-feints and mumbled apologies.

All you need do is think of yourself as a car and each door as a lane: stay to the right and veer to the left only when it’s clear to pass. The doors are double for a reason—to not create bottlenecks. But if you treat a double door like a single door your flying in the face of what that double door was intended for.

Now, it’s true that sometimes one half of a double door is unopenable—that whoever oversees that particular passageway has deemed fit to only make one side accessible by thrusting down a metal bar to keep it locked in place. Not sure what the philosophy is behind that, but it does happen. And since it’s embarrassing to encounter a door and suddenly be thrown back from it like a silent film actor, you need to obviate just such a possibility by using a little finesse.

Finesse is highly underrated—in politics, in door-opening, in just about anything. A gentle, smooth touch is too often counted as weakness or a dearth of conviction. What it really is is the judicious taking into account of variables.

If you’re coming through a double door—or any door, for that matter—in the back of your mind you have to make room for the prospect that it will stubbornly refuse to give way to you. That’s why a firm but by no means violent thrust is what’s called for—that way, if it does indeed open, you will knock no one over who happens to be on the other side or look the ass should the door be locked.

The same finesse is called for when shutting the door. Nothing wrong with slamming doors—but you should only do it when you’re genuinely angry. An unintentionally slammed door has cost many a man his job, his reputation, his marriage.

Every door has its own humor, its own god. Again, the ancient Romans had a god of doorways for good reason. So that’s why it’s incumbent on any door-shutter to have a gentle follow-through—for anyone within hearing distance of a door that’s a little too well-greased on the hinges will hate you if you let it slam because it’s a sound they hear all the time and they’ve come to look on the human race as a bunch of dumb brutes and what you’re doing is contributing to their general misanthropy.

But back to opening doors. For men, the real quandary comes when one is in the company of women. There are a lot of fellows out there who adhere to the classic gentleman archetype, while others prefer to let it all hang out. “Nothing in excess,” said the inscription above the doorway above the Oracle of Delphi, and it still applies.

The era of the gentleman rushing up to each and every door and patiently waiting for all females to enter as he stands clutching the door handle like the most dutiful of servants has long since passed. Good riddance, I say. The psychic burden such overly courteous behavior creates far outweighs any physical benefit it bestows.

Were I woman, I would not want any man opening a door for me. It’s a sign you want to be pampered, that you want to be treated not as an equal, but as a child. Such ham-fisted courteousness also lays a debt of obligation that any woman in her right mind would rather not be under.

And most of the time it just doesn’t make any sense, especially in most public places—because what often happens is that when you open the first set of doors for someone, there is another set of doors they will either have to open for themselves or open for you. If they stand there loitering like some Old World aristocrat for you to open the second set of doors for them, you should immediately sever all social ties with this person.

Opening doors for the infirm or elderly or somebody with their hands full, however, is an unavoidable obligation that should be done without hesitation and without fanfare. I say without fanfare because more than once I have overheard heated arguments verging on fisticuffs sprouting from someone forgetting to saying “Thank you” after someone else had opened a door for them.

Don’t be one of those folks who requires constant validation of one’s goodness, don’t be one of those passive-aggressive types who angrily, sarcastically mutters “You’re welcome” when someone fails to give you a Nobel Prize for doing them a small favor. Doing one’s duty requires no thanks.

You’re welcome.

  • September 19, 2016