This sounds like an episode of Seinfeld.
Does the social convention of holding the door for someone ever bother you? We all try to do it so the door doesn’t slam on the person right behind us or to keep it open for a person carrying stuff. It makes sense when someone is right behind you. But what about someone about 15 or 20 feet away? I call them “tweeners.” They are people in between where holding the door is obvious and not holding the door is obvious because the person behind you is way far off.
Holding the door only causes stress with tweeners! I hold the door because I think it’s the proper “thing to do to.” I do it to be nice and I also do it to avoid that person behind me from copping a resentment that I didn’t hold it for them. But when I do hold it that person feels guilty I’m standing there so he or she begins jogging towards the door. Now what good was that? I hold the door, they feel guilty, and then we have to apologize to each other.
Doesn’t that make no sense? Maybe it’s just me.
The other kind of tweener is the one we see passing by me in the hall. Now let’s say I don’t know this person at all. Or, let’s say it’s someone I don’t know and this is the thirds or fourth time I have seen him or her in the hallway that day. There is this awkward moment of making or not making eye contact and then figuring out what to do. Usually people look away until the last second when the pass happens, then they make brief eye contact, say “Hi,” smile and walk on by.
Here I’m thinking, why did I say hi to this person? I don’t know who that is and I’ve seen them twice already? Isn’t one “Hi” sufficient? What if I am just done smiling? Do I do it to keep things pleasant?
We have such awkward social conventions to be nice. It’s almost like being nice to each other feels unnatural. Try not holding the door for tweeners and looking dead in the eyes and not smiling for someone passing by you in the hallway. You’ll feel the tug to act differently in the expected convention. That will feel more awkward for sure.
But hey, awkward smiles and greetings better than being punched in the crotch every time I pass someone in the hall. My floor hallway when I was a Freshman was a dangerous and lawless area. I’ll take the awkward smile and the awkward door hold any day over that!