Today I’m prefacing my lecture with a little story about my friend Tim, your standard “nice guy”. One day, Tim was walking into a building, and being the nice guy he is, he held the door for a person walking in closely behind him. Shortly after, another person came along, and Tim held the door for this person, too. And just seconds later, another person came, for whom Tim held the door as well. This stream of people went on for about two minutes, which is a really long time to be holding a door when you’re not getting paid for it.

By the by, Tim’s toothpick of an arm got tired, and he decided to just walk inside and not hold the door, no matter how close behind him the next person was. Tim walked through the door, and when he looked back outside to see how things went, there was a guy with crutches laying on the ground.

Leave it to the handicapped to make nice red-heads look like total assholes. This story really got me thinking about the doorways that we inconveniently have to share with weird and annoying strangers on a daily basis. When using these public places, there are certain courtesies we are expected to pay to people. My question is, where are these courtesies written down?

Are we supposed to know by instinct? Are they floating around in some parallel dimension, and we’re supposed to feel their essence? Obviously Tim wasn’t feelin’ it, or else crutches back there never would have bitten the pavement. All in all, I really think that these “social courtesies” are very socially ambiguous, and that they should be written down. So for those of you who are sober in public often enough to care, here are the new ground rules of social courtesy.

Firstly, we should clear up this door-holding situation. I find that when I’m more than seven seconds ahead of someone in walking distance, I feel like a tool-bag holding the door for them that long. So that’s the new rule: if someone is seven or more seconds behind you, you don’t have to hold the door. If you’re ever iffy about how far ahead you are, simply hold the door, count to seven, and if the person behind you hasn’t made it there yet, you’re free to go.

If you yell, “seven second rule!” at them as the door shuts, they’ll understand. Likewise, I don’t think you should have to stand there all day like Tim did, so seven people is also the cut-off point. Seven is a very judicial number; there’s seven days in a week, and it’s the universal “lucky number”. I’ll bet Tim waited until 13 to stop holding the door, and that’s why that handicapped dude ended up like an overturned beach tortoise. Thus, give yourself a break; don’t wait for the 13th person, as it will probably end up being a deaf, mute quadriplegic. But for the love of God if you do see one of those coming, HOLD THE DAMN DOOR!

Then, there’s the age-old question of, “Should I walk up the escalator, or should I follow suit with all these other oafish porpoises and let the escalator do all the work?” This is a stupid question, and I’ll tell you why. There is an invention for people who are carrying heavy items or physically can’t walk up the stairs that helps them get up and down between floors, and that invention is called the elevator. I wrote an article on this very topic a couple years ago, spawning into quite a controversial fireball of discussion. One unfortunate side effect of this article was the fact that since I made such a big deal of it, now I HAVE to haul ass up the escalator, even if it’s 400 feet high and I’m exhausted or carrying 50 pounds of crap. So even though my proposition often fills me with regret, I still insist that unless you’re missing an appendage, you should always walk up the escalator Even if that’s just me being a stubborn ass hole.

This last issue is one very close to my heart: if a guy or gal buys you a drink at a bar, do you have to hook up with them? And furthermore, if you don’t put out, do they have the right to take the drink back? Here’s an interesting anecdote: back in my swinging single days (aka sophomore year during a severe spell of acne) I was at a bar where some guy I always saw at the gym bought me a libation to quaff (another reason I was single probably had to do with my pension for medieval English). We shot the bull as I sipped my rum and coke, but soon into the conversation, my short, creepy gym friend realized that he wasn’t getting any from me, snagged my drink, and walked away with it.

I was taken aback. I was also still sober, and dammit, I wanted my rum and coke! Coming out of this situation, I think it’s fair to say that you definitely DON’T have to hook up with anyone friendly enough to buy you a drink—this guy was not up to my standards, and that’s pretty bad, seeing as I was beat-faced at this point in life. Yet, I also think that if you give someone a beverage, it is their beverage, baby. You don’t know where that person’s mouth has been, and if you’re going to contract some sort of nasty oral disease, it better be because you scored the home run with them, not because you ganked their beer.

Don’t you feel just a little relieved that we’ve made written maxims for just a few of these social encounters? If you can think of any others, please feel free to post in my comment box. I know I’ll sleep easier the more we clear this up. Or feel free to comment if you agree with anything I said here. Or if you hate me. I won’t sleep easier for it, but you have that right.

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