Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Doors (Part Two)

We were at an event with a lot of other people. Hundreds of other people. I had difficulty finding the accessible washroom so I asked one of the people working there and was surprised that she didn't know. She went and found someone who was able to direct me. Joe headed off with me, both because I needed his help and because he's 61 and never misses an opportunity to spend a penny. We found the restroom exactly where we were told it would be.

Now, I need to describe the doors. There were two.They looked like when they were open they would create one large space, but instead they were actually two separate doors. So when both were open, you'd have to go through one side or the other, the door jamb blocked anyone from entering the middle. I hope you have this pictured, I just spent 20 (!) minutes looking for a picture of this on the web and couldn't find one. Saw lots of doors though - kept trying to find meaning in it, poetry even, but sometimes doors are just doors.

Over the several hours we were there I went to the washroom three times. (See what you get to know about a person?) Each time we'd approach the door, open the one I was going to go through, and someone would be coming out of the other side. They'd see me coming towards the door and they'd hold their door open. To NO effect because their actions didn't make my door any bigger or my entry any smoother. Even when either Joe or I said, "Thanks but we're good here," they continued to hold the door until I was through.

Joe and I laughed about it each time. It was silly. The door they held wasn't the door I was going through. They'd be able to see that it was actually a separate door. But they held it anyways.

Here's the thing.

I got to thinking about this. It was weird but they guys doing it weren't. They all seemed nice. I say 'all' because this happened every time I entered and exited the washroom. 6 times. 6 men. None of them stared at me, expressed a need to watch me go through, or did anything even mildly odd. Except hold a door that didn't need to be held.

I began to wonder if these particular guys, and maybe some of the others who have helped in equally odd ways, we acting out of some deep seated, learned as a child, set of manners and morals. Perhaps they'd be taught to be helpful, to be aware of the needs of strangers, to be willing and step in and step up when assistance was needed. Maybe it was kind of a chivalrous action, carefully taught and deeply learned.

Maybe it was less about me.

More about them.

In the situation yesterday, help hurt. Not physically hurt, but hurt my ability to go through the doors. By holding the door he disenabled me from getting out the two doors. I had to intervene and I had to get him to stop so I could go about my business. His need to watch me, I'm sorry, is creepy to me. I wouldn't ask any stranger to watch anything that they were doing no matter how curious I was. That's different.

But maybe it sprung from the same source.

I think I have to be more careful in understanding what people are doing, and why they are doing it, maybe I just need to focus on being heard when I need to be heard. By the time we were ready to go, I had stopped telling the men holding doors I wasn't going through that their help wasn't needed. They weren't in my way, their desire to be helpful was kind but unnecessary.

Unnecessary kindness is to be preferred to unnecessary cruelty.

But maybe it wasn't unnecessary - because what it did, I realize only now as I write this, is let me know, that if I did need help, if there was an emergency, there were 6 men there who were, soul deep, ready.


ABEhrhardt said...

And in that same vein: if you think about it, those gentlemen holding the door were signaling willingness to help better than if they had stood there with a slight smile watching to see if you needed help.

A slight action to show their intentions were good is better than you having no idea what their intentions might be.


CL said...

I feel this way when men are "chivalrous" toward me as a woman. I'm young and not disabled, so when they offer me a seat on the train or hold the door, I know it's because I'm female. Secretly, that type of chivalry makes my skin crawl. But I feel bad rejecting it because I know they've been taught from childhood that it's the right thing to do. They think they're being good men, good people, and arguing makes me feel like a jerk.

Mary said...

Part of it in this scenario is I think the interplay between Door Rules (you hold the door for anyone immediately following you or heading towards you) and Toilet Rules (do not watch, do not make eye contact or speak unless completely necessary, insert Old Joke about keeping your eye on the ball, etc).

So to actually listen properly and absorb the "no, that's really not necessary, thank you", to acknowledge the conversation and move away knowing something about a fellow-bathroom-user's preferences (even if only your door-opening preferences), would be a breach of Toilet Etiquette.

The door to the bar, now, that's a whole different story.

Tam said...

First time commenter here. I've only recently found your blog. I have started from the beginning and am working my way through. I'm up to 2012 in the archives. Your blog has alternately made me laugh, cry, and think deeply. I have also read most of the comments on your posts, and it struck me today that some of the criticism that you have occasionally received about your reaction to situations stems from the very thing you stated today. The guy in yesterdays post was creepy about what he was doing, the six guys in today's post were not. They were all, in effect DOING the same thing, but the FEELING you got from each situation was different. Whilst our reactions to people are both real and strong, it can be so hard to explain those feelings, and the reasons for them in writing. People sometimes may think you have over-reacted to a person or situation simply because it is impossible to convey the "feeling" you got from the person in the situation. Anyway, after all that rambling, I want to say I really like your blog, and I thank you for taking the time to write it and to share your knowledge and experiences with us all. I look forward to your posts coming through on my blogger subscription.