Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why Doors in Public Places are Sometimes Locked

Photo by takomabibelot
Yesterday I talked about same-stepping, that awkward thing you do when trying to pass someone out in public, and described how it was one of those things that makes me apprehensive to step out into the real world and get lost in a crowd. But today I want to address something else that makes me fear public places. It affects all of us, and it’s a completely unfair thing that we all encounter on a regular basis.

I’m talking about double-doors—but specifically those sets in which one’s permanently locked.

Yep, it’s uncool. It’s dangerous. It’s probably just a way for store employees to bring a little bit of amusement into their otherwise melancholy days. I’ve been telling people for years that my theory for the half-unlocked doorway was so that a hidden camera could capture people looking stupid as they attempt to walk through the door.

If you’re one of the rare few who never experience this, here’s basically what happens: You go walk in or out of a business. There are two doors, generally glass, that are side-by-side. You’re not going to open both of them, of course, so you pick one. It’s probably the one on the right, if you live in the United States, since we’re conditioned to travel on the right sides of paths. One of the two doors is locked. If you always pick the right door, you’re going to hit the locked door either on the way in or out; this means your chances of encountering the locked door are extremely high.

You walk up to the door and push, but it doesn’t open. “Oh, oops,” you announce, as you pull the door handle. Nothing. You realize two things: That you need to use the other door, and that you look stupid.

Hey, if there’s a really good reason for it, I understand. If there’s a sign on the door that says “PLEASE USE OTHER DOOR,” then it’s your own fault. But when you’re walking in or out of a clearly open business and there’s no warning, you can’t be blamed for falling for this trick. You are an innocent victim.

I’m particularly bad about these things because I have poor posture, leaning over the front of my feet as I walk at a brisk pace everywhere I go in a quest to be ultimately efficient. I walk up to the door, shove it with a good bit of force, and it doesn’t open. My body’s momentum keeps me moving forward still, and my face stops approximately one centimeter from the glass, nearly breaking my nose and knocking teeth out of my mouth.

I can’t recall a time where I was injured or anyone laughed at me, but it’s coming. This isn’t a phenomenon that’s going away any time soon, so we’ve got to continue to deal with it. However, I assume that my theory about a sadistic storeowner with a lust for hidden camera footage of people ramming their faces into glass doors doesn’t carry much merit, since those people would be likely to sue. The lawsuit factor leads me to believe that there are other reasons behind this phenomenon. I decided to do some investigation.

Every time I encountered one of these doors, I would ask an employee why it was like that, making sure to clarify that I was merely curious and not complaining (a total lie.) Only one day passed before I exited the right side of a double-door at H&M, only to find that it was locked. I went back to the sales counter.

“Oh, that door should be unlocked,” the employee said, “I guess someone just forgot to do that.” I politely asked her if she’d do it under the guise that I wouldn’t want anyone to get injured, but in reality to see if she’d do it. She did. The door unlocked and was free to move.

A new reason: Someone “forgot,” or was lazy.

Two days later, I actually went into a Taco Bell. I have no idea why I did this, but as I attempted to enter, the door wouldn’t budge. I almost took this as a sign to go home, but dedicated to my cause, I walked up to the counter and asked someone about it. I was deferred to a manager.

“Actually, the door’s broken, we need to get that fixed.” A little more prying revealed that they had been locking the door at night with a pair of scissors, and that one day the door couldn’t be unlocked anymore. I appreciated his honesty.

Another new reason: Door is broken, and no one wants to get it fixed.

Then, about a week later, I went to take some of my wife’s clothes to a Psycho Sisters consignment store to sell them. The left-side door wouldn’t open, which was unfortunate because I was carrying a huge bag of clothes that barely fit through the open side. While the owner was going through my wife’s stuff (yes, my wife knew I was selling her clothes) I made some small talk, inquiring about the door.

“We keep one side locked when it’s really hot or cold to keep the air in,” she told me. I’m not entirely sure of this reasoning, but it sounds like something someone would do.

Yet another reason: Air conditioning is expensive in Atlanta.

So there you have it: Four potential reasons for a locked door. Though I can guarantee that someone out there is enjoying watching people try to open a locked door, I didn’t have to try very hard to find three legitimate alternatives: Oops, broken, and frugality.

But they should still put a sign on the door!

Check out this short n' sweet article which addresses similar concerns.

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