You know that awkward instance when you go to push open the door of the restroom, but almost fall over because someone else is on the other side pulling it open at the exact same second? Oh, I hate that. It happened to me twice today. It was that kind of a day.
It’s such an infrequently discussed moment, I wonder it it’s sort of taboo, one of the few social patterns that hasn’t yet been named, classified and exposed by some eager academic. It’s an instance of precarious social balance where there’s no clear manners for getting through it. Your mother, Dear Abby, Dr Phil and the Internet are no help, yet I bet everybody’s had it happen to them at least once. Or, maybe, because I consume the equivalent of an oil drum of caffeine everyday, my trips to the loo are more frequent, my step is perhaps just a bit more, shall we say, urgent than the average guy and this has a greater importance to me than most. Ah, my life.
First, what do you call it when one’s obviously in a hurry to go in and the other is, one would presume, just as anxious to get out? There’s that nano-second, half a tick of the second, where the two must stop, pause, and put aside their individual extreme self interest – they both can’t go through the door at the same time; I tried it and it doesn’t end well – in an effort to arrive at a mutally agreeable solution. That pause where the doorway agenda gets reset? I’d like to propose we call it a “doorway detente”.
Then, who has the right of way, the person going in or the person going out? Who could deny the import of either side’s case? A reasonable person, though, might agree that the out-goer, having done their “work” would be under just a bit less pressure than the in-goer and should cede the passage.
What do you say in a moment like that? To the in-goer, “Get out of my way”, “Look out!”, “Excuse you,” all seem like reasonable choices. Mostly, though, both parties end up offering an uncomfortable expression of surprise like “Doh!”, “Whoa!”, “Oh!” or something. I usually say, “sorry ’bout that” as though I did something really wrong, like piss on the other guys foot or accidently walked into an occupied stall.
Of course, these are the questions that come up after you’ve made it through the door and on to the rest of the task where the politics of restroom traffic flow are the least of your concerns.