“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Painting a white line in the office parking lot,” I said, setting down my bucket.
“I can see that,” she said. “May I ask why?”
“I’m establishing a boundary.” I dipped my brush in the bucket and continued painting.
“A boundary?” She narrowed her eyes.
“Yeah. See, there’s a question of when it’s appropriate to hold the door open for someone, and when it’s appropriate to let it close.”
She crossed her arms. “Explain.”
“Well,” I explained, “say you’re exiting the building, and a fellow employee is crossing the parking lot toward you. Your first instinct would be to hold open the door — correct?”
“Of course,” my boss said, nodding. “Politeness fosters positive employee relations.”
“But it’s not always appropriate to hold open the door,” I said. “Depending on the approaching employee’s proximity, it’s sometimes better to let the door fall shut.”
My boss frowned. “Give me an example of such an unlikely occurrence.”
“Well, say the employee is a ways off, yet you’re standing there holding the door open. The employee will feel awkward, and so they’re going to sprint forward so you won’t have to wait.”
“This is a problem?” my boss asked.
“It’s a big problem, especially if the employee is wearing heels. They might trip and fall and scrape themselves. And then the company would be expensed with scrubbing a bloodstain off the asphalt.”
“Noted, and good point. We can’t be incurring unnecessary expenses.”
“And so the question remains,” I said. “When do you stand and hold open the door, and when do you let it fall closed? Until now, the decision has been left to individual discretion.”
“Hence the line?”
“Hence the line, yes. If you’re coming out the door, and a person is on the far side of the line, then you can let the door swing closed and proceed. But if they’re on the near side of the line, then propriety obligates you to hold open the door.”
“And how did you determine the placement of the line?”
“There was some complex mathematics involved,” I said. “Geometry, algebra, advanced thermodynamics. The equations wouldn’t interest you.”
“So let me get this straight,” my boss said. “If I’m walking toward the building, and I’m on the far side of the line, then you’re absolved from having to hold open the door?”
“Precisely. And if you’re on the side closest to the building, then I’d be obligated to hold the door open.”
“What prompted this analysis?” my boss asked.
“Two distinct events,” I said. “In the first event, I arrived at work and opened the door with my fob. A female employee had exited her car and was walking toward me. Because she was across the parking lot, I ascertained that she was far enough away that holding the door was unnecessary. So I let it close behind me and proceeded to my desk.
“The employee later confronted me and said I was rude for not holding the door. She had misplaced her fob and couldn’t get inside, and so she had to call Facilities.
“In the second event,” I continued, “the converse occurred. I was exiting the building, and a high-ranking executive was approaching the doorway. Even though he was relatively far from the entrance, I stood and held open the door. Naturally, I wanted to leave a good impression.”
“Understandable,” my boss said.
“The executive saw me standing there, so he burst into a sprint to reach the door faster. And instead of a ‘thank-you,’ he said in a very sardonic tone: ‘What are you, the new doorman? If we needed something to prop the door open, we could just use a rock.’ And then he brushed past me and tromped into the building.”
My boss frowned. “Such impudence was uncalled for.”
“My sentiments exactly. And so you can see how I made the wrong decision on two separate occasions. In one I let the door close, and in the other I held it open. Yet in both instances, I was unjustly rebuked.”
“So you identified a problem and determined a solution.”
“Exactly. Now that we have a line, I can gauge when to hold the door, and when to let it close.”
“This is why you’re an integral member of the organization,” my boss said. “Can you please stop by my office later this morning? We’ll need to discuss your immediate salary increase.”
“Another one? Very well,” I said, wiping my paint-speckled hands on my dress pants.
Together, we walked toward the building. My boss opened the door and walked inside.
“Wait!” someone called. “Hold the door!”
I turned to see the CEO scampering across the parking lot.
“Sorry,” I called back. “You’re on the far side of the line.”
And I let the door slam shut behind me.