I May Have Overused Bold and Italics in This Article, But I'm Just Trying to Express in Some Small Way the Awkwardness I Experience Every Minute of My Life
The average American workplace is, reduced to its most basic elements, nothing more than just a bunch of potentially awkward situations swirling around in the air and waiting to be realized. Basically, every single fixture in an office building is optimized for awkwardness. Elevators are a great example of this, unsurprisingly (small space + 30 seconds of silence + two strangers = awkward situational equivalent of putting a roll of Mentos into a bottle of Coke: explosive and messy).
But if the awkwardness of the elevator is to be predicted, then that of the door is doubly cruel because doors are not supposed to be so bad. In fact, in terms of popular symbolism, doors represent opportunity and possibility. In my world, however, the only opportunities presented by doors are just more opportunities to engage in more awkward interpersonal dynamics.
Take, for example, this classic scenario: you're walking through a door. Someone is coming up behind you. Do you hold the door open for him/her?
On the surface, this may not seem challenging. But view this diagram and stay focused while I try to explain how this seemingly mundane task causes me to break into a cold sweat:
Sometimes, the answer to the holding-the-door dilemma is clear: If the person is close behind you (Zone A above), stop and hold the door open for him. If the person is far behind you (Zone C), you can let the door close behind you without feeling rude. But what about that gigantic stretch of middleish distance from the door (Zone B)?!?!?! If you just close the door, the trailing person may take it as an insult as it kind of shuts in his face; if you stand there and hold it, you may quickly realize the person is still a good 10 seconds from the door, so now you're just standing there looking dumb. Also, to compound the tension, the person you're holding the door for will often feel obliged to break into a semi-jog to get to the door faster, which makes you feel even worse because you were trying to be polite and instead you ended up stressing the person out and forcing them to do a weird uncomfortable jog thing.
Perhaps what's most noteworthy about the scenarios I've described thus far is that they don't even directly involve talking. That's a whole added dimension, one that can take a situation that was merely uncomfortable and turn it into one that is painful and humiliating.
Look: if I've got to work for the rest of my life, then fine. I'll work. I'd just prefer to do it in a place with absolutely no elevators, doors, or other people.