Sociology for lunch, anyone?

I was standing in line at Jimmy Johns for lunch today when a man tapped me on the shoulder.

“I couldn’t believe those kids didn’t hold the door for you,” he said, visibly upset.

I had to ask him to repeat it, and even when I heard him correctly the second time I didn’t know what to say. A moment earlier, I’d held the door open for two guys coming out of the restaurant. They were late teens, maybe twenties, sandwiches in hand. I don’t remember that much about them because I’d been paying more attention to the car parked out front with the “Vote No” graphics all over it. I remembered this guy, though. He’d been approaching on the sidewalk, heading toward his car. He was clearly not a Jimmy Johns customer, but went out of his way to come in to the store to say this to me.

What to say to him? I felt a myriad of reactions, none of which seemed to be the response he was awaiting. My first thought was that he was a salesman and this was some kind of clever lead in to his pitch. When I ruled that out, I tried to find some nuance of Southern accent in his voice, then immediately questioned why I think good manners are rooted only in the South. Then my mind went to the feminist corner, wondering why I should have doors opened for me. Am I disabled? Do I advertise some obvious weakness that is apparent to strangers on the street? Do I look (gasp) old? Then I jumped off that train of thought, sensing it would lead nowhere good, and proceeded to feel some remorse about living in a society where it would never occur to me to have my doors opened, where I am caught off guard by someone starting a conversation with me.

What did I end up saying to him? “It’s okay. They were coming out first.”

Minnesota Nice ruled the day, and I defended strangers to other strangers. He left–my lack of emotion was obviously not what he wanted to hear. And I’ve thought about it for twenty minutes since. If Andy were here (see the Andy files) we would hash this out for an hour or more with no signs of fatigue. I suppose this is my problem. I never know what to say when something happens. I have to mull it over and write it down in order to figure out what I think. (For more on this topic, see my contribution to the I Write Because project.) So here’s my real answer, upset sidewalk man.

“As long as someone holds the door for someone else, we’re all good here.”