Sunday, February 1, 2015

Break On Through Despite The Sign

                Working as a concierge has reminded me of how much doors can teach us about human nature. Oh, and I don’t mean that in the sense that led to Jim Morrison to name his band. I mean actual, physical doors and modern man’s ongoing struggle with their use and the various stages of ‘open’ or ‘closed’. A locked door with a security alarm can destroy whatever is left of one’s faith in humanity. Try sitting in a Barnes and Noble with a good view of such a door and watch customers walk directly at the sign warning them of the alarm with zero hesitation as they plough into it. Ever been just slightly out of someone’s field of vision and still know that person might bump into you because their inability to see an object means they stand no chance of avoiding it? Or perhaps you’ve wanted to discuss the basic concept of free will with another human being? Just be prepared for the conversation to end at “I come and go as I please.”  So, doors! Step through one with me. It’s metaphorical.

                One of my job requirements as a concierge is to press a button that opens a locked door. If anyone tries to open said door otherwise, an alarm will go off. This is called security. In case this concept is lost on some, there are signs on either side of the door that not only explain it but they indicate a special button that, when pressed, alerts me to their need to pass through the door. Despite this, there is never a moment that I am not using all of my sensory awareness to anticipate a human being seemingly attempting to crash through the entrance like one of the zombies they most likely can’t wait to watch on television later that day.

                Most people open doors as if there were no possibility that anyone could be on the other side. Meanwhile, I never approach a door directly, but from an angle. Guess which type of person is perceived as the strange one. Yet, I have a theory that may explain this aspect of humans and their relationship to doors. People are not born with the ability to understand something developmental psychologists refer to as object permanence. This means that when they can no longer see something, it ceases to exist to them. The game, ‘peek-a-boo’, originated as a way to teach object permanence to infants. It really isn’t hard to argue that human beings continue to cling to that which they can see. So, next time you pass by a door, think of the likelihood that someone might be on the other side and have no idea you exist! It will improve your reflexes.

                Freedom! If you’re William Wallace and you’ve just seen your dead lover walking through the crowd, it’s something you yell before getting your head lopped off. If you’re someone on the wrong end of a locked door that someone else controls, it is something that, on some level, you feel you no longer have. Don’t believe me? Ask a nursing home resident, a mental patient or a resident in a rehab facility. The fact that they are currently guests in a controlled environment to which they either agreed to be a part of or currently are in no condition to be in any other environment no longer registers with them. Being on the other side of that door makes them a “prisoner”, in their own words. Yes, each of them is Andy Dufresne in Shawshank State Prison, only none of them will be likely to concoct a genius escape plan involving a rock hammer, a Raquel Welch poster and a crawl through a sewage pipe.

                Before I was a concierge, I was a high school English teacher. The image of a young man violently pulling on a locked door leading to a classroom that he did not even belong in still resonates with me, mainly because it still makes me smile. Reminding him that he was not only yanking on a locked door but no reason existed for him to be admitted entrance required a verbal exchange that I enjoyed for its absurdity. The profane response I received was even better. Jim Morrison may have been a deep fellow with a talent for lyrics but when it comes to doors, I find that watching a man literally trying to break through to the other side while staring at a sign explaining why he cannot is a good time all by itself.