It’s no secret that I love Reese’s Cups, which is why I went to the gas station to get some recently. Walking up to the door, I noticed a young woman in the reflection behind me. I opened the door and held it to let her in ahead of me. Obviously, objects are closer than they appear because when I turned to look at her, she was farther back than I expected. I still waited for her though.
During the eternity it took for her to get to the door, I recalled my favorite book, Talk to the Hand by Briton Lynne Truss. She briefly talked about a perfect-world door-opening-for-a-stranger situation. According to her, the door opener feels six things:
1. Relieved the person wasn’t rude
6. completely indifferent to the individual who thanked you
Personally for me, holding the door is a habit. You can be a man, woman or child. It doesn’t matter. It’s my little way of saying, “go ahead. I’m not better than you. You can go ahead of me.” For this delicate case though, I was making a bigger statement than that. Clearly, this young lady (who was White) was out of her jurisdiction in this “segregated” small town in Alabama, so I designated myself Goodwill Ambassador to the Black community. My leadership and demeanor would be the jump-off to the next set of encounters to unfold inside the store. People were watching me. I was setting the tone.
As she walked across the threshold, I spoke to her. She said nothing. No “hello”, no “thank you”. Absolutely nothing. My expectations of feeling the six things Lynne Truss talked about immediately reversed. Instead of being relieved she wasn’t rude, I got pissed. Me holding this door was my way of saying “As Ambassador, I vow to not let anyone hurt you. Feel comfortable during your brief stay”. Not, “I’m holding this door because you’re better than me“. Instead of vindicated, I felt a knock-on effect for my actions. Instead of validated, I felt unwarranted. Instead of virtuous, I felt really bad, almost stupid for waiting that long for her. Instead of safe, I felt like obviously she must have been some sort of sociopath that was going to go stab her dog or ferret to death when she got home. Instead of feeling indifferent toward her, I felt it was personal. Almost like an Oscar snub.
I then went in and grabbed my Reese’s Cup. When I got to the register, she was in front of me. She had the nerve to be writing a check to pay for gas. A check! I mean, who writes checks anymore? Where’s your card? People stopped writing checks at the turn of the century. Not only did she snub me, she was going to make me wait for my Cup also.
When she walked away, the person coming in held the door open for her. She didn’t thank them, and I immediately felt better. Maybe watching someone else go through the six stages brought comfort to me, because I enjoyed listening to him mumble to himself about the brief encounter. It was awesome. So was the Cup I began to eat while waiting in line.
Do you hold doors for people? If yes, how do you feel when the person doesn’t acknowledge your generosity?