Pushing Not Thinking

Given that life is a matter of walking forward as far as you can, it’s only natural that we tend to push doors open rather than pull them open. Continuing to move forward and push is, after all, faster than stopping to pull. Think about the last time you entered your house; you probably pushed the door open to get in and then pushed the door closed. This holds true for most doors you encounter (bedrooms, bathrooms, classroom). Of course this is nothing more than a convenient perk of building design.

So what about when doors say “Pull”? Though it may be entertaining to see a person push instead of pull, it’s not as if we always do this. This is due to  yet another useful architectural feature; push doors have horizontal bars whereas pull doors have a vertical bar. These attributes and intuition make it easy to discern whether to push or pull the door in the split second before you actually reach it.

So what about when doors aren’t easy and convenient to open? What about when you can’t tell if a door is “push” or “pull” because it was installed or designed poorly? Here is when intuition and experience goes out the window, or gets left at the door, and we rely on instinct, which tells us to push. This is when most instances of people walking into door occur.

Let’s imagine such a  person right now. There is an unmarked door except for a simple handle and a man walking towards it. He grabs the handle and walks into the door, all in one fluid motion, as if this were planned. Because there were no giveaway signs, the man relied on instinct, which told him to push the door. Dismayed but not yet discouraged, the man tries again, this time pulling the door. Unfortunately, the door doesn’t budge and now the man is getting frustrated and decides that the door must be locked. Subsequently, the man leaves and looks for a different way into the building.

However, what if I told you that the door was actually not locked? I imagine that at the very least the man would cry that that is impossible and urge me to try the door myself. So I do; I slide the door open and the man is confused, as is the reader. How can it be a sliding door? Well, the door, as stated earlier, was unmarked except for a single handle, meaning that there were no hinges visible on the outside. If there were hinges on the other side of the door, it would be a push door, but the man demonstrated that this was not the case. Therefore, since now we have determined that there are no hinges on the door, it must be a sliding door. The man, disgruntled, shoves past me and through the door, rudely if I may add.

This is exactly the problem with society today: we focus solely on binary solutions when there are so many more answers than just two. This man could have been anyone of us. We first push then pull but if both of those options don’t work, we automatically assume there’s no other way around and become fixated on that. Alexander Graham Bell once said, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”  Rather than bemoaning our mistakes, we could have observed our surroundings and found a way around them. Instead, when we are faced with a hurdle, we half-heartedly attempt to surmount it and then falter mid-leap. Maybe we would try again, but trying the same exact thing wouldn’t yield a different result. Or of course, we could have walked around.

This close mindedness permeates all aspects of our lives, beyond just a locked door. For example, when a conversation or argument goes awry, should we become extremely aggressive and start shouting or storm off? Or should we remain calm and compromise? We could try to understand the other person or reassert our point differently or a whole slew of other resolutions. As we continue to walk forward in life, we should keep in mind that forward isn’t the only path.


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