My name is not Benson. My name is not Mr. Belvedere. It is not Alfred, Jeeves, Geoffrey or Cadbury. In short…..I am not a butler or a doorman. And furthermore I don’t think that I present myself as such. I don’t stand outside of building doors with a top hat, white gloves or any special sort of Uniform. That being the case, if I hold the door open one more time for a lady only to have her dismiss me by not saying thank you or even just making eye contact and nodding I am gonna blow something up!
I once read a story about a young Native American boy who talked about how difficult it is to maintain who you are in the midst of so many outside influences. Now even though he was talking about greater cultural issues I immediately thought of the boy in that story when I hesitated to open the door for a woman who was walking a few feet behind me. I have been brought up to do these types of things. My mother would tell me to wait until she is seated before I sit. My father would make me carry my mother’s grocery bags and carry anything that my grandmothers had in their hands outside of a purse! I saw my father and grandfather hold the door for ladies, walk on the outside of them while walking close to the street and even offer to drop a woman close to the door of her destination in hot, cold or rainy weather. But I think the key to this is, while I was mirroring the actions of my role models, the women who were the focus of my treatment were always sure to say “Thank you son!” or “What a nice young gentleman you are”. You know how it is. Parents deliver that sometimes over the top affirmation as positive reinforcement to get kids to do the right things. And I have to admit it totally worked on me. By the time I was 10 I was running to be ahead of my mother to open the door for her. It made me feel good to do the stuff my dad usually did. But it also made me feel good to get the praise. And from years of growing up like that it just became the right thing to do.
I have never been the type of person to harp on the negative, but I feel like I never get a thank you for holding doors anymore. I get the super fast walking lady who darts through the door as fast as she can only to have to see me a few seconds later as we wait together for the elevator. I get the “I’m so involved in my phone conversation lady”, who seems to not even notice that the door did not open automatically. But the one who takes the cake is the blatantly rude lady who just slowly walks right by me holding the door and won’t even acknowledge that I am even there. She is the one that makes me want to slam the door on her heels and watch her fall on her face. She is also the very same type of woman who is prone to comment on the rare occasion that I am being a little less than gentlemanly. I have on occasion gotten some nasty stares for being in too much of a hurry to wait for a lady the way I usually do. I even had a lady at my job comment in her elevated tone, clearly so I could hear, “Nice to see there are still some gentleman around”. If you could have taken my temperature at that moment I am sure that it would have been at Super-nova type levels! I remember one time hearing an older lady say that “Chivalry is Dead”! Not even a minute after she walked out of the room her husband chimed in right behind her and said, “And women stepped on it”!
But this sort of rude behavior is not just a matter of chivalry or of women not being appreciative of gentlemanly behavior. Some guys are just as prone to being assholes. Attention fellas….when a woman in front of you is holding the door for you, don’t walk through and say thanks! Take the weight of the door off of her hand and hold it yourself. (Shaking My Head….) When you get on an elevator, don’t bark out your floor to at a lady as though she is an elevator operator. This isn’t 1955! Push the damn button yourself. And never, never, never…squeeze through an open door before a woman who is right in step with you. Just take a second and let her in first…..Man this stuff should be common sense! And on top of that it has to make people just that much more attractive to each other when you exhibit a little common decency.
But even with all my complaining there is light at the end of the tunnel. As I was walking out of the grocery store yesterday I saw a lady struggling to pick up her case of water and get it into her buggy. Without hesitation or asking her if she needed help, I just instinctively grabbed the case of water and put it into her cart. She looked up at me and looked me straight in my eyes and with a big smile said “Thank You”. I got the warm and fuzzies and it made me so glad that I stopped to do that. And it makes me even more determined to keep on doing it. Man I really should have asked that lady for her phone number. Who cares if she was probably old enough to be my grandmother?!