I work in a typical corporate high rise office where there is always a hustle and bustle of people heading through security, waiting at the elevator queue, or running to their next meeting. People on conference calls or in deeply engaged conversations, looking at their iPads or on their cell phones as they navigate this intricate web of human beings — it can be a pretty amazing sight to see.
One particular day, while make my way to the building from the parking structure, I noticed a young lady no more than several paces ahead of me, walking towards the same building as I. As we both get closer to the building’s entrance, I begin to pick up my pace in hopes of making it to the door first.
Sensing my change of pace and probably unsure of my intentions, the young lady matches my increased pace and starts to accelerate. Not be outdone, I match her cadence and just before we both reach the door, I make my final “skip lunge” for the door handle and proceed to open the door — for her. This move causes the young lady to come to a screeching halt. But the weirdest thing happens, she just stops and looks at me! After what seemed like an eternity, it appears to finally dawn on her that I have just opened the door for her in which she replies, “How chivalrous!” as she walks through the door.
What I neglected to notice, in what I considered to be a rather benign encounter, was the traffic pattern flow interruption that I just caused by my act of kindness. It was just like when you are driving behind someone and they decide to make a right and you swerve around them like, “How dare you turn in front of me!” What was equally startling to me was the faces of the people around me as they were being “forced” to use the next door so that the millisecond of time that they just lost, won’t ruin their entire day — and let’s just say, I wasn’t winning any brownie points with them. But of course, this got me thinking about what I had done, by causing the stunned reaction from the young lady and the quite literally vile reaction I got from everyone else.
As the only male in a house full of women, pulling out chairs and holding doors open, is common place for me. But venturing outside of our little family domain, it never ceases to amaze me how my behavior is met with a mix of reactions — not all of them positive. I used to chalk up any negative responses to my actions, as my own misinterpretation of their reaction. But when I think about the young lady’s reaction, “how chivalrous”, it dawned on me that she was either not accustomed to this type of treatment or she associated my behavior to an era when chivalry was common place. And this young lady apparently is not alone — even my wife has even told me of several time, at 7 months pregnant and carrying a briefcase, it is rare that someone, anyone, will hold a door open for her or give up their seat on the bus so she can rest her feet! And when it does happen, she is very surprise but nonetheless appreciative.
And what about the negative reactions — what’s that all about? And don’t even get me started on the numerous times I have opened a door or held an elevator open — only to have people look at me like as if it was my job to do that for them. The reactions are always a mixed bag. But the fact that anyone can get angry or even annoyed is just mind boggling to me.
Recently, I tweeted about a situation that we have all experienced at one time or another. It used to be, as you are trying to catch an elevator and the doors were closing, the people inside made that lame, fake attempt to hold the doors open for you — all while giving you that look that says, “Hey man, I did everything I could!” But, when I experienced a similar situation, I called out to the guy in the elevator, “Hold the door!” and got absolutely no response, except for a look that could only convey, “You snooze, you lose”, while the doors closed.
Later that week, I enacted my revenge, not on that same guy unfortunately, but this time, I was already in the elevator. Waiting for the doors to close, another one of “those” people entered the elevator and immediately hit the close door button! Not on my watch! Even though I could not tell if there was anyone else making their way to the elevator, I in turn, pressed and held the open-door button. The look I received was priceless! I returned the glare with a pleasant smile, that probably came off not too Christian-like but, the appreciation I received from the elderly woman as she made her way into the elevator was well worth it.
So what’s going on here? Are we so self-absorbed as a society that we only care about ourselves or, have we just become accustomed to our “modern” lifestyles which cause us to attribute certain behavior as being “old-fashioned” and therefore an annoyance — or a little bit of both? Who knows. What is clear is that chivalry, or whatever you want to call it, is still around — it just seems like nowadays it’s become some sort of rare, mythical sight — like when people claim they saw Elvis in the middle of nowhere!
In light of Father’s Day, and the gifts and adulations we will receive, I am challenging the Dads out there (if you haven’t done so already — or even if you need a little refresher) to be the example of this so-called chivalry. Let’s give something back to our children by showing them how being polite and helpful is both a strong and admirable traits to possess — and maybe, just maybe, the next time they go to open a door or give up their seat to someone else, their gestures will be met with appreciation and gratitude instead of bewilderment … one can only hope!