If the socially awkward person has one natural predator, it’s doors. (By dint of being socially awkward people, of course, we have many more than one predator. If the entire world weren’t actively trying to murder or otherwise humiliate us, we wouldn’t be socially awkward.)
The real problem with doors is that there are just so many of them. We literally cannot leave the house without facing one or two. What’s that on that bus? It’s a door! What’s this outside your office? Another door! And here, welcoming you home each evening like the cruel, snapping jaw of some enormous, horrible beast? It’s your front door.
Yes, they’re a tricky species, doors — waiting to lock you in or out of rooms, maim your extremities and your loved ones, and open onto still more awkward situations. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that, as a society, we’ve established certain rules to curtail the havoc these demon portals might wreak. With the exception of a few specialty doors, these laws may be applied to door everywhere to ensure maximum safety and minimum displays of social ineptitude.
Rule 1. Take an extra moment to read any relevant signage on or around the door. A thorough understanding of signs like “Push,” “Closed,” “Emergency Exit Only” and “Good God Don’t Open This There Are Radioactive Snakes Back There” can make or break the door-human interaction.
Rule 2. If approaching the door at the same time as someone else, the person who reaches it first should hold the door open, regardless of gender. If this feels unchivalrous, think of it this way: you’re being sexist.
Rule 3. Just as in the case of crowded elevator or subway car, the people exiting through a doorway have the right of way. Incidentally, on a crowded elevator or subway car, the people exiting through the doorway have the right of way. Look! We’re all better humans now.
Unfortunately for the awkward, the standard door is not the only type out there. But as all gauche people know, preparation can save you. Practice the following techniques at home in front of a mirror and when your skills are called upon in the wild, the only thing you’ll have to fear is the odd impossibly-more-awkward yahoo you will inevitably meet in the doorway.
1. Automatic Doors
Most of the standard door rules apply to automatic doors, except that whoever reaches the automatic door first should not try to hold it open. You will look ridiculous and you will be fighting a machine. Like they need another reason to revolt.
2. Sliding Doors
When I was was six, my parents were invited to a Stanley Cup party at a hockey player’s house. Excited to see the cup in person, I ran face-first into a sliding glass door that was much less open than I had originally thought. Now I can only associate hockey with physical trauma and furious, toothless Canadians.
What I’m trying to say is, always check to make sure the door is open first.
3. Swinging Doors
This door is a trap. If you open it incorrectly, you may very well kill someone on the other side. Open it slowly. You may yell, “I’m opening this door now!” or make a steady beeping noise like a reversing forklift if you wish.
4. Revolving Doors
“Only one person can fit in each revolving door wedge at a time,” is what I would say to myself if I had a time machine and could go back to the night of junior prom. “You wouldn’t want your date’s kilt and your dress to get caught in this restaurant’s door, would you? It would take three waiters to pull you both out and that would be pretty embarrassing.” Unlike a standard door, the first person to reach the revolving door hops right in and hopes for the best. It may be necessary to push the door to start it — move at a reasonable pace and don’t touch the glass.
5. Garage Doors
A normal human should be able to walk beneath a garage door without the fear that it will fall on them, but you’re not a normal human are you? You’re socially awkward. Cringe your way through the door and prepare yourself to do a less coordinated Indiana Jones-esque maneuver to roll under it at the last moment, particularly if you are wearing a hat.
6. Saloon Doors in the Old West
These doors involve all the intricacies of swinging doors, coupled with the difficulties of walking in spurs and chaps and the thrill of knowing that someone on the other side is absolutely going to challenge you to a shootout in the street. Good luck.