Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Rampant Pointless Speculation of the Day

Where I work, there are some big double doors dividing one section of the building from another. The kind with a bar you press to release the latch so you can push them open (from one side--as you might expect the other side has a pull latch).

There's also a button you can push to make them swing open automatically. I've noticed that it seems like pretty much everybody who goes that way pushes the button rather than opening the door with their arms. I once saw someone walk past the button, and then take a step back to push it.

I think I would never do that because, hey, can't lose forward momentum! When I'm on my way somewhere, I don't backtrack! Precious seconds could be lost!

But it was worth it to this person. And in general it's worth it to everyone to push the button rather than press the bar and heave to get the door open.

I kind of wonder why.

Sure, the button certainly requires more effort, but it's not going to be a major effort for most people.

I'm not trying to make some woe-filled point about how lazy people are or anything. I don't have any particular stance on whether or not people should be opening doors with their muscles instead of with buttons. I don't think it's a big deal and I don't assume anything about a person's character based on this. I'm just curious as to why everybody does it.

Do they think the technology of the button is cool? It is, sure. I mean, the door opens on its own! Nifty.

Do they think the button is more hygienic? There's no reason to suppose that to be true--if everyone touches the button, it's no cleaner than the door latch (in fact, if more people touch it, it's probably less clean).

Are the doors that heavy? I never find them to be so, but perhaps I don't know my own strength.

Do the doors take longer to push open than to swing automatically? I haven't timed them, but as far as I can tell there's no striking difference.

I suppose the simple answer is that it's slightly easier to push the button, and people tend to like things that are easy. Done.

That sure was a satisfying intellectual exercise.

Now perhaps a better question would be, if everyone else seems to use the button, why am I the weirdo who always pushes the door open by hand (on the rare occasions I go to that part of the building?

I think it's partly because I have this vague sense that the button is set aside, like a parking space, for people who would have difficulty opening the door by hand (or who need to be closer to the entrance to a building, in the parking space example). I don't park in those parking spaces, so I don't push those buttons either.

They're not my buttons to push! I don't have the right!

This is not a rational argument, obviously, since it could actually hurt someone who needs the parking space if I'm using it, whereas it doesn't hurt anybody who needs the door to open automatically if I also cause the door to open automatically.

Not unless I intentionally open it into their back or something. (We can't rule that out. The person could be my mortal enemy.)

No, probably I open the door by hand for the same reason I take the stairs instead of the elevator: because I have a deep-seated fear that automatic doors are going to close on me and crush my head.

That's less simple than my conclusion for the first question, but I'm a complicated person.


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