Overthinking a plate glass door
January 24, 2019 6:18 AM   Subscribe

I have two door etiquette questions, brought to you by the front doors of my office building.

Both of these questions are predicated on the assumption that foot traffic keeps to the right (not sure whether this is universal or whether people walk on the left in countries where driving on the left is standard. I feel like this is something I should know!)

1. Scenario: I am entering the building. A man is leaving the building at the same time. He holds his door open for me. I thank him but ignore the door he is holding open in favor of entering through the door that is meant for incoming traffic. Is this rude?

2. This building actually has 2 pairs of doors on a sidewalk that runs east-west. Door pair AB is west of door pair CD. Should all foot traffic coming into the building use both CD doors (i.e., the set of doors to the right as you're facing the building) or should traffic approaching from the west use door B and from the east use door D? I obviously realize that there's no way to change people's door behavior, but I would like to do the most correct thing when entering the building.
posted by coppermoss to Human Relations (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am not an etiquettician, but I'd say...

1. It's not rude to use the door you want to use. Thumbs up to still saying "thank you" to the guy holding it, to acknowledge his thoughtfulness.

2. Since they're two sets of doors, I'd treat it as each set having in and out doors. Context matters-- if everyone is only entering the building through CD, I'd follow suit to avoid collisions.
posted by underthehat at 6:28 AM on January 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

I am not sure I would use the word rude, but it would be odd to ignore the person holding the door and use the adjacent door. As for #2, use both doors for entering and exiting using the right side of each. What would you expect to do with a building with three (or more) doors?
posted by AugustWest at 6:30 AM on January 24, 2019 [14 favorites]

In scenario one, I think that ignoring a door that someone has held open for you is rude, yes. There's missing information here, though. Sometimes you don't see it until too late, or sometimes there's other people involved and the timing is weird, etc. Gender shouldn't be a factor - I am a woman and hold the door for men, and don't expect a man to hold the door for me, just because he is a man. All that being said, if someone is going to the trouble of holding a door for you, you should walk through it, and thank them. To do otherwise is rude, I think.

In scenario two, I agree with you, if I'm understanding you correctly. You should treat double doors like a two way street. Exiting people stay to one side, and entering people on the other. Some double doors even have a railing in the middle, to try and enforce this practice.
posted by backwards compatible at 6:30 AM on January 24, 2019 [6 favorites]

Regarding 2, if the doors are right next to each other (touching or a few feet apart) I'd expect one to be for going in and one for going out. If the doors are further apart - even say 15 feet - I'd expect people to use both for in and out.
posted by insectosaurus at 6:37 AM on January 24, 2019

This level of thing is minor enough that I think the best thing to do may be to decide that you don't have time to worry about it, and just do what you feel. You can scrutinize your actions regarding this sort of social minutiae all day long, and at the end of the day you will still have rubbed some folks the wrong way just due to simple misunderstandings. The best approach I think, is just to do what seems best in the moment, be mindful that you may inadvertently irritate a few people from time to time, and try to be forgiving of similar minor transgressions when you perceive others to be making them.

No matter how hard you try, you can't please everyone.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:41 AM on January 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

1. Yes, that would read as rude(or at least, strange). If someone's opening the door for you the oncoming person, that would mean there's not anyone behind following behind them (especially with a glass door to be able to see!), so you're not obstructing anyone and just partaking in a small social nicety.

2. Use both doors for both uses, until you have such a large amount of people that a true 'ENTRANCE' sign and traffic controls need to be installed.
posted by Static Vagabond at 6:44 AM on January 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

In thinking about it, I think that if someone is holding the "wrong" door open for me (i.e., the one on my left), then I often smile and thank them as I'm opening the "right" door myself, but I'm much more likely to do that if there are also other people exiting or entering at the same time and I don't want to get in their way by going in an unexpected direction. I figure the door-holder is still being helpful in giving me more space to walk through.

(As to your parenthetical question, there was an AskMe about it here: What is British sidewalk protocol?)
posted by lazuli at 6:57 AM on January 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Unless there's an extraordinary flow of people in and out, all doors can be used for in or out. If someone's holding a door for you, yes, it's sort of rude not to use it unless it'd clearly mean disrupting the flow of people/colliding with someone coming out/something like that.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:05 AM on January 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

Is this rude?
I would argue no on the basis that, in general, my doing something you didn't ask for cannot create an obligation for you to do what I want in return. I frequently hold doors open for people, and it's nice when it works out, but my failure to intuit someone's wishes -- they prefer going through the other door for whatever reason -- doesn't make them rude.

That being said, there are plenty of people for whom etiquette is mostly about performing minor social rituals to grease the wheels of fleeting social interactions: it doesn't matter whether the rituals make sense, it's about having a shared vocabulary to signal friendliness/cordiality to each other. By holding the door they're making a friendly gesture to you, and if your reasons for using the other door aren't obvious it could be read as a deliberate rejection of that friendliness. To what extent you have a social obligation to go out of your way to engage in these rituals -- going through the opened door, etc -- is probably one of those things that everyone has a different feeling about.
posted by metaBugs at 7:05 AM on January 24, 2019 [5 favorites]

My datapoint: it's not odd. it happens all the time. Sometimes people aren't paying any attention to the open door, have a preference, whatever. Doesn't matter if it's male or female.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:16 AM on January 24, 2019

I think in some cases it would be a little rude to go through the other door.

But opening a door for someone can also be an act of social dominance- like a man forcing a woman into a receiving his "chivalry", or a person using door opening to force an unwanted flirty social interaction and increased body proximity, or an able bodied person using door holding to physically assert that a disabled person needs their help, or a panhandler or salesperson manipulating a situation so now you "owe" them something because they held a door for you, etc etc. And in those cases, the door opener was actually rude first because they forced the interaction.

Although to a shallow observer those dynamics might be harder to see so you still might seem rude by avoiding "their" door.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:32 AM on January 24, 2019

I think #1 is just a smidge rude, but (assuming the door-holder is acting in good faith) I also think it's a missed opportunity to build community.

Kindness is a gift, and how you respond to it ripples. Accept it and both giver and receiver get a boost; they might go on to pay the kindness forward.
posted by headnsouth at 7:38 AM on January 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

I regularly leave a building with three double doors and veer left after leaving, so use the right door of the left-most set. This is also because traffic at that time is very light, but even when it is busier, I see people using all three sets for both entering and exiting and usually correctly using the right hand door of the set they choose.

I often ignore door holders who want me to use the left half of either 4 or 2 doors. I am not walking 6 or 8 feet out of my way to use a door that is held open when I can open the one in front of me. I try to pretend I don't see them, so they don't take offense. I don't want to be rude to the holder, but I also don't want to block the people exiting the building. This is a real risk when the doors are solid or only have a small window. When it is plate glass and you can see there is no one coming, then you can feel okay using the left side. I am guessing the left-door holder didn't check behind them to verify the way is clear for you, though.
posted by soelo at 7:46 AM on January 24, 2019

Rude only comes into it if multiple people are trying to use the door at the same time. If people are coming out the left door and you try to go through it instead of opening the right, that's rude. But if there's no one else, just one open door that someone's holding for you, yeah, it's more rude to stay right.

The point of staying right is to stay right of other pedestrians or potential pedestrians who might come along. Using the left or right door with no one around is irrelevant.

And I would never walk past one set of doors to go to the one on the right unless they were marked Enter and Exit.
posted by gideonfrog at 7:46 AM on January 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

In-versus-out door etiquette for an office building is not as hard-and-fast as what you're suggesting, no. The "correct" door behavior is minding people's space and not intentionally getting in the way of the traffic flow.

People do tend to veer toward the right door. It sounds to me like the most natural foot traffic assumption for your scenario 2 would be for people to treat doors B and D as entrance doors. But eh, it depends on the way the building entrances are positioned and how they look, the amount of foot traffic, whether the doors open in or out, how much of a crowd is entering and exiting at the same time, etc.

> I would argue no on the basis that, in general, my doing something you didn't ask for cannot create an obligation for you to do what I want in return. I frequently hold doors open for people, and it's nice when it works out, but my failure to intuit someone's wishes -- they prefer going through the other door for whatever reason -- doesn't make them rude.

Regarding scenario 1, I agree with this. Rude is really all about intentions here and isn't about which door is objectively proper. If you are both just two humans navigating space in good faith, then he's not holding the wrong door and you're not rude for using whichever door you like for any reason you like. You exchange polite nods and go on your merry way.
posted by desuetude at 8:23 AM on January 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

Yes, it IS rude to ignore a person holding a door from you and use the other one. It's a deliberate slight, a gesture that says "you aren't good enough to even hold the door for me".

Sheesh. Accept the act of kindness, don't turn it into insulting the person.

As I said here once before, hold doors for people. Male, female, young, old, it doesn't matter what you are or what they are. If they're headed toward the door you just opened, be polite and hold the damn thing.

The same goes for accepting that kindness. Just accept it, don't be picky about it.

As for which door is "appropriate", there isn't one. You're totally forgetting another part of the equation - that some people are left-handed, and may well choose another door based on that.

As for part 2, it's irrelevant. People are generally going to use the door closer to them, unless they're easily identifiable as automated in one direction or the other. And since there isn't even a solid standard among stores (at least in the U.S.) as to which side is in or out when the doors ARE automated, trying to nail this down to one consistent pattern is just an exercise in time-wasting. (Often, EXIT is whichever side happens to be closer to the checkouts.)
posted by stormyteal at 2:00 PM on January 24, 2019

> Yes, it IS rude to ignore a person holding a door from you and use the other one. It's a deliberate slight, a gesture that says "you aren't good enough to even hold the door for me".

There are plenty of reasons that are neither rude nor a deliberate slight. You're distracted and didn't register that the door-holding was for you. The door-holder is standing at an awkward angle that makes their kind gesture difficult to accept. You're heading to the door specifically to hold it for someone you're accompanying/helping who is behind you. And that's not even getting into door-holder practicing performative "chivalry" with a poor sense of timing.
posted by desuetude at 2:27 PM on January 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

I find myself in the position of opening a door for myself while a man holds a less convenient door for me fairly often — I walk fast, so I’ll have a hand on the door I was heading for before it’s unambiguous that he means to hold the other door open for me.

I’ll nod and say thanks for the gesture, but I can’t see manners requiring me to slow down and step out of my way because someone wanted to do something that I didn’t want him to do, and that he isn’t required to by manners.
posted by LizardBreath at 3:02 PM on January 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

There's probably a regional/cultural context. I grew up in the Midwest, where I was taught to hold pretty much any door for anyone regardless of their position (to the point where, if I see someone on the opposite end of the building whom I know will be exiting the same door, I will stand there holding the door for the entire time it takes them to traverse the building). I now live in New England, where any sort of social interaction with another person in public is severely discouraged, and not only do people refuse to enter/exit through the door I'm holding; they also avert their eyes to avoid eye contact with me, and some will even grumble to express their discomfort. When I first moved, I took it personally and considered it rude, but I've come to realize that I'm actually the one being rude, because I'm the one who's not adhering to community norms. Context matters: if everyone else is an asshole, being an asshole yourself just means fitting in.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:25 PM on January 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

I will stand there holding the door for the entire time it takes them to traverse the building
I find this rude because now there is a subtle sense that I should hurry so I don't slow you down. I refuse to speed up because someone decided to hold the door for me. I continue at my normal pace and have been sneered at and even told "Oh, don't speed up" sarcastically.
posted by soelo at 6:35 AM on January 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

FWIW, I would feel pretty embarrassed if I went out of my way to be helpful to somebody like that and they rejected it for no clear reason. Like, did I do something wrong? It's not a huge offense but it would definitely gnaw at me.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:15 PM on January 26, 2019

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