Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Door Wars

It was silly. I knew it was silly. But I didn't care. Silly or not, I was going to win.

When we leave the apartment building, Joe opens one door, I open the other. My chair will fit through just one door but it's a tight fit and requires precise steering, it's easier to just push open one while going through the other. Just as I was about to let the door go, a woman, who lives in our building, was hurrying towards the door. I called out and told her that we would hold the door for her and, as a result, there was no need to rush. She hurried anyway and I noticed that she was heading towards me, not the entrance.

"Here, let me hold the door for you," she said.

"No," I said, being OUT, and not needing the door held, "go ahead in."

"No, no, I'll hold the door," she said not noticing that I was already OUT.

"I'm fine, go ahead in," I said, struggling to stay calm.

"NO!," she said, "I will help you, I don't need help."

"I don't need help right now either, I'm OUT, already, I'm holding the door for you as a neighbourly act." I said.

I'll stop there, but it didn't end there. It got into an actual argument with her refusing to enter and me refusing to let go of the door. I didn't want her to touch the door magically making it me getting help. Help that I didn't need and I didn't want because I was already OUT.

It was a struggle between two people, each trying to do something nice for someone else. "My life has become a sit com," I thought to myself. But. I didn't let go of the door.

In the end, I did win.

She went in.

But I also lost.

She went in really angry.

I wasn't angry, and I wasn't really regretful either. She wanted me to play helpless cripple and she wanted to begin her march to beatification.

Sometimes I simply can't be stuffed into the helpless role by even the nicest of bystanders, not only am I not helpless, I have the capacity and desire to help others too. Not just by what I do at work but by how I live my life.

All that means is that sometimes I want to hold the door.

I'm wondering if any of you get stubborn like I did yesterday ... I'm guessing this isn't an uncommon situation, but that's a guess, fill me in.


Anonymous said...

Nope - not over something like that. It dances around stupidity. (Hers, not yours.) Honestly. I think I would say something like, "as you wish, hold away" and then roll in the opposite direction. Really, in a scenarios like this - no one wins.

Mike Allen said...

I agree. I like games but I have to learn the rules before I can break them. Sometimes. Sometimes it goes in the other direction and that's a game too. Main point is that some things are not a game. Knowing the difference is important. We should catch up.

Anonymous said...

Since I've been in and out of a chair I've been on both sides of this door-holding business.

Fifteen or so years ago we lived in a high-rise condo building. Down the hall was a young woman with a four or five year-old child. The mother used a chair, a nice jazzy athlete's type, miles above my clunky one. But once, when I was coming in and saw she was struggling with child and parcels and keys and whatnot I held the door for her.

And she swore at me saying she wasn't a helpless cripple just because she was in a chair. And she wouldn't come through. She sat and glared at me, swearing under her breath, and waited until I closed the door and went on to the elevator.

She was right, the chair had nothing to do with it. She was a hopeless cripple because of her sour, miserable disposition and her seething anger. She was always screaming at her poor kid, always lashing out at anyone who tried to even be neighbourly. Say hi in the hall as you passed and she'd say, "Eff you."

I've noticed this belligerence in a couple of my male friends who use chairs. Not only can they not graciously allow someone to help them, they are really unpleasant about it if you offer.

I can't make a crusade out of my disability, it is integrated into my personality to the point that I don't expect people to tiptoe around pretending I look perfectly normal and fearing to mention things I obviously can't do. (Remember Basil Fawlty's line; "Don't mention the war!")

I work in the disability community too, and I see this as a conundrum. My clients want 100% acceptance, while throwing up barriers that make people very nervous dealing with them.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Anon 2, my deal was that I was OUT! I recieve help with doors on a fairly regular basis and am, I think, appropriately thankful. I don't lash out at people who try to help me - it was just that in this case, I was in the position to be 'helper' and as I was OUT, I just didn't want that taken from me.

Anonymous said...

The etiquette for opening doors, for such a simple act, is unbelievably fraught with weirdness.


Rachel in Idaho said...

Gee, Dave, why would you be so mean to her as to refuse her help that she just KNEW you needed? How ungrateful! *looks innocent, moves out of range*

I am perfectly capable of handling most doors but am happy to have people open them for me, and then I will open the next one for them in turn, as is only polite. What bugs me is when they hold it over my head and tell me to go ahead. I don't really like ducking underneath people's arms but often will do it as it's easier than the "Thanks, I've got it now, you can let go! No really, I'm fine!" conversation.

And it can be pretty funny to see people, particularly men, spring into action to get to doors ahead of me. It's unnecessary but kind of cute.

It's really unnecessary when it's the door from the employee hallway to the main hallway at the hotel I work in, which has a push button (recently installed, very nice). I appreciate the thought, though.

This might be a situation where being a woman works to my advantage, but heck if I'm not going to use it if it is. :)

Anonymous said...

I don't deny that there are some people with disabilities who are chronically grumpy or outright hostile. There are people without disabilities who are chronically grumpy/hostile also, no reason why PWDs wouldn't be also.

But when I hear people try to claim that most of the PWD they know are bitter or angry all the time, I often can't help but wonder if the issue really is that they have been so unlucky in meeting so many unusually grouchy PWDs or if there might be two other possibilities that the claimer may have failed to consider:
1. Perhaps they are so sure this is a common tendency among PWDs that they unconsciously project this attitude upon others when it is not actually there. This is a pretty common fallacy that lots of us humans are vulnerable to.
2. Perhaps they're doing something, in at least some of these interactions, to trigger these reactions in the PWDs they meet.
3. Perhaps they are mostly meeting people who are very recently disabled who are more likely to be still working through resentment and anger on their (sometimes long) journey to self acceptance.

I work in the disability community also, so I have met many people with many different types of disabilities throughout my life. (I'm 43, so plenty of years to get a very large, albeit not randomly selected, sampling of "people I've met"). And, despite this annoyingly common stereotype, I certainly have not noted PWDs being any more likely than non-PWDs to be bitter or hostile. So, yeah, I get a little skeptical of these sweeping claims, at least for people who are not so recently disabled.

Laura said...

It's a bigger issue isn't it? I mean if you had said no thank you I'm already out and she had gone on about her day there wouldn't be a need for this blog post. I have been accused of being mean to people just trying to help. I have even caught myself doing it once or twice but I can also promise you that was I a day I'd spent saying no thank you over and over to other nice people who were unknowingly making things harder for me in the rush to help. FOr example I can handle most doors. But it is a balancing act, more then once people have rushed to help pulled on a door I was already successfully navigating on my own, but because they didn't take no thanks for an answer I ended up on my face in public which is then embarrassing for me and the person trying to help. As to your other point of wanting to help out as well as be helped, the local supermarket here has a food bank box by the exit door and I try when I can to buy a little something extra to drop in the box on the way out. Several months ago some older ladies, other shoppers, saw me making a donation and rushed me like a on coming football team to EXPLAIN to me that I wasn't expected to give to the food bank that, it was to help people like me be able to eat and I really should call the # and apply. After I got over my shock which took a few seconds. I told these completely clueless woman that I was aware of the purpose of food bank and I was very happy to share my blessings with people who needed help. To which this woman said "but dear you are poor and its for people like you" At which point I told her that I worked 2 jobs thank you very much and please get the hell out of my way." I am not proud that I lost my cool and I went home and was angry most of the day. I do work 2 jobs and I am not rich, but I will never understand why someone felt the need to make assumptions about my life based simply on the fact that I was using a scooter to get around. Sadly that was just the most obnoxious display I've been a part of it's not the only time someone has questioned why I am helping out when someone should be assisting me. Being able to give back is part of the circle . I can only feel ok about accepting the help I do at times need if I can turn around and help someone else when I see a need I can fulfill. I don't understand why that is so hard for some people where I am to grasp

Anonymous said...

I've told my some of my door war stories here before. I'm on disability now, but when I was working, it was always a fight to get into the building without someone "helping" me.

People push the button and walk on in.. so the door opened before I got there, and closed in the middle and hit me, or I'd have to wait for it to finish closing before I could open it.

I opened the door myself, was halfway through the door only to have someone grab it and yank it farther open.... with my hand caught the handle, nearly breaking my fingers, and very nearly pulling me out of the chair onto the ground.

I almost got fired because someone looked grouchy when I said "Please, it's easier if you let me open the door myself" Someone who saw it assumed that I must have said something rude. That got me talked to by HR and the project manager.

And the chronic people who RUN up as I approach the door, only to stand blocking my way while they try to hold it open. Including the day we tried to get into a restaurant in the pouring rain, while someone stood in the middle of the door "Helping" but completely blocking the door until we were soaked.

All of this complicated because I have a really profound allergy to cigarette smoke, and anyone coming in from the outside is likely to have had one last smoke before they go in.. so their "help" meant I wouldn't be working that day after all, and almost lost me my job.

This might be the one and only time you "helped" me so uselessly.. but some other idiot is doing it every single day. Please, I can open the door myself, thank you.

If you think every person with disabilities that you meet is grouchy, ask yourself, what are you doing that makes them so grouchy when they meet you?


Princeton Posse said...

Must be the full moon effect. I saw a couple of teenagers throwing boulders at the marmots in the park. I stopped and yelled at them to stop. I ended up in a shouting match that no one won. Very frustrating.

Anonymous said...

It makes me mad when men dart ahead to hold doors open for me as a woman. i think if you are walking along with someone else, or you get there almost at the same time, whoever gets there first should open the door for the other person as a courtesy. If you do this with your walking partner through a series of doors (e.g. in a hospital, office block or school where I am often working), then you end up taking turns to open the door for each other and I think that’s nice.
To my mind it’s only ok for people to go ahead to open the door if I am carrying something cumbersome and they are not.
I LOVE the idea of comment one, where you say, ok have it your way, hold the door then, and roll off in the opposite direction. I like a bit of humour to diffuse, but that’s just the style I aspire to, I’m not really that witty, I’m more on the earnest side.
I think there is diversity in how people deal with such situations and generalisations about people with disabilities or people who use wheelchairs are disrespectful and unhelpful. I’m glad that amongst people on the marginalised side of privileged, there are those that are angry, sarcastic, self deprecating, grateful, saintly and all the rest. Go diversity!!!!

FridaWrites said...

My favorite is when there is a post in the middle of two double doors and people insist on holding both doors open, even though you can only enter through one of the doors--it's not possible to use both! At all.

My least favorite is when people act like they'll hold it for me and then let it slam on my shoulder or back. Young men overestimating my strength.

Liz said...

Happens all the time! I wish that when I say "No, thank you" people would listen.

Especially when they're standing exactly in my way.

In a manual wheelchair I pull a door open by kicking off on the door or wall opposite and then pull myself forward. Having someone grab the door in the middle of this complicated (but easy) maneuver is not good.

But I also don't like that they ignore my polite refusal, that they act like I'm an emergency, and that they think they get special helper points for "helping". The bad helpers come pre-loaded with anger. They're already ready to be angry if I don't act grateful enough for something I didn't need, didn't want, and specifically refused.

Debbie said...

Well, at least you weren't totally childishly mean. I'd have been tempted to pick out some (probably) unloved attribute of hers and offered to help her pick out a new bra, or offer diet advice. Generally when I'm going to feel guilty about how I've acted, I tend to go really big. If you're gonna feel bad anyway, at least eventually you get to look back in wonder...