Miss Manners probably did not cover this one

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/10/11 00:01 -07:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/michkap/archive/2005/10/11/479301.aspx

I am pretty sure that Miss Manners probably did not cover this one in her column.

Let us say that I am scooting around in one of my scooters, and I have to enter a building. Let us further say that the building has one of those handy automatic door openers, so opening the door and getting in should be easy.

Everything is going well, right?

As it turns out, the answer may be no. Because some person may see me heading into the building and that person may decide to help.

Unfortunately, that person will often end up doing something that is the opposite of helping -- unintentionally blocking the way, not having the door open soon enough to let me get through the second door, trying to open it while standing out of the way in a position where they are clearly stretching uncomfortably.

What do I do then?

I definitely don't want to discourage people from helping; wanting to help out is a noble goal, worthy of praise.

But at the same time, I do not want to see myself or others injured or my attempt to do something to be made harder by an attempt to help that (for lack of a better word) doesn't.

The generic "Thanks, I've got it" does not seem to do the trick; people answer with "it's no problem, really!" as they unknowingly proceed to make sure that a problem does, in fact, exist.

I have taken to holding back far enough that it is clear I am not heading in yet, and then (once the coast is clear) going in. But there was one occasion where I actually did end up needing help -- it is not a common situation, but there must be some way to handle this without making people feel bad for helping, right?

Lacking Miss Manners to draw on, does anyone have a thought on the best way to handle this kind of a situation?

# Adam Young on Tuesday, October 11, 2005 4:16 AM:

Just stay on the scooter outside the door beeping your horn. When someone opens the door, drive through. They'll be forced to run away from you in terror. Works for me.

# Michael S. Kaplan on Tuesday, October 11, 2005 7:22 AM:

Interesting thought, but I am pretty sure that Miss Manners would not approve! :-)

# Maurits on Tuesday, October 11, 2005 12:51 PM:

Hmmm... maybe park the scooter outside?

# Jeff Parker on Tuesday, October 11, 2005 12:56 PM:

Well, I am not in this situation much, but talking with other friends of mine that have different wheel chairs, scooters, what ever and every one of them seem to say the same thing. "I am not really that often in need of help, if I am I will ask for it." So to me it is perfectly ok to me now if I am walking in a building and I see a person coming in a scooter a quick glance to see there are the door opening buttons and if there are. I just go ahead and go on in. The person in the scooter is able to get in without trouble. However, on the other side sometimes I get rude looks from other people because I didn't stop and clear the way and hold doors. I guess it is all a perception thing.

My ex was a nurse and worked on the floor of the hospital where all new back trauma or spinal injuries were treated and recovery went on. I used to visit her and have lunch with her quite often in the hospital. So much I got to know a lot of the patients there. One thing in common between most of those people is they didn't want any special treatment. So I don't give them any unless they ask. I don't view a person coming up a ramp in a wheel chair any different than someone walking in with their hands full. A quick "Could you get the door for me" and thats not a problem. I view it the same I guess because the buttons for the auto doors I use as well if I am coming in with my hands full. If those buttons aren't there then I would stop and hold the door same as I would if someone was comming in with hands full. But like I said this behavior is sometimes viewed by other people as being rude as I really don't go out of my way for someone just because they are in a wheelchair or scooter, which has never been my intention to be rude.

# Maurits on Tuesday, October 11, 2005 1:02 PM:


Q: ... Occasionally people take it upon themselves to help me without giving any warning. For example, someone might run up behind me and start pushing my wheelchair when I'm going down the street.
What is a proper response in these circumstances?

A: "Excuse me, is there some way I can be of assistance to you?"

# Michael S. Kaplan on Tuesday, October 11, 2005 1:19 PM:

Hi Maurits -- the trouble is that I need it inside.... I can only make it so far on my feet.

Though its is interesting that Miss Manners did kinda answer it -- I will have to try to morph that to my situation....

# Michael S. Kaplan on Tuesday, October 11, 2005 1:20 PM:

Hi Jeff -- Yes, you hit the nail on the head. I am definitely not looking for special treatment, and that may be why I end up feeling weird about the situation. I would never look at it as rude unless I asked for help and someone blew it off (which hsd not happened, yet, thankfully!).

# Andy on Tuesday, October 11, 2005 1:43 PM:

If I was walking into the building and someone who was at the door didn't hold it open for me I would consider them rude. I don't need the door holding for me and infact maybe I'd rather not be forced to speak to that person in the elevator but still holding the door for someone is the correct and polite thing to do. Am I missing something? but to me it sounds like special treatment would be to not hold the door.

# Michael S. Kaplan on Tuesday, October 11, 2005 1:48 PM:

Hi Andy,

The problem is when the attempt to help does not actually help, you know? I know that it often makes people uncomfortable, because they look confused about exactly what to do.

If you are in that situation and are not sure what to do, asking is the best thing to do.

# Cindy Winegarden on Tuesday, October 11, 2005 4:56 PM:

How about starting with a compliment to show that you acknowledge their kindness: "You are so very kind" or "Thankyou for your thoughtfullness" and then adding "...but, it actually works better if you let the automatic door opener do its job and allow me the full width of the doorway to pass through."

# Michael S. Kaplan on Tuesday, October 11, 2005 5:42 PM:

Hi Cindy --

Your idea is actually the best way to go. My biggest worry is embarrassing them, with that delicate balance of them going out on a limb and being afraid to do it next time. But that is something I can work on, especially if I make that first part convey that I do appreciate what they were trying to do....

By the way, are you the Cindy Winegarden who is the Visual FoxPro MVP? If you are I have heard good things about the study guide you wrote. Plus I have never yet met an uncool FoxPro MVP. :-)

(if you are not then disregard the tangent!)

# SteveM on Friday, October 14, 2005 10:47 AM:

Well - if it were me, saying "Thanks but it'd be easier if you got outta my way" would be enough. But I'm a geek so that probably doesn't apply to most of the population...

# Michael S. Kaplan on Friday, October 14, 2005 11:16 AM:

Hey Steve, I am a geek, too!

# Laura E. Hunter on Sunday, October 16, 2005 2:26 PM:

Honesty often works better than we give it credit for - it's the odd curse of trying to be mannerly at all costs. We can be honest without being jerks - Cindy's suggestion is pretty close to the way I'd go with it for that reason.

# Michael S. Kaplan on Sunday, October 16, 2005 3:05 PM:

Hi Laura! LTNS!

I agree, heck I even said so. The trickiest part (at least that I have found), is not to avoid bing a jerk but to avoid embarrassing the person trying to help....

# Michael S. Kaplan on Sunday, October 16, 2005 3:48 PM:

By the way, Laura -- I am still waiting for that RSS feed on your blog!

# Orion Montoya on Wednesday, October 19, 2005 11:20 AM:

I ride a bicycle and carry it into my office, and it's easiest if I'm unaided as I know how to time the door opening and everything. But I sometimes get this, too, where people are holding the door open but standing in my way (and making me worry that I might hit them in the face with my rear wheel). I've honed my reply down to "That's OK, go on in: I have a <em>system</em>." Now that it's that short it's pretty effective, they get the idea, and they get out of the way.

# orcmid on Friday, November 18, 2005 12:24 PM:

[I just read your comments policies while trying to figure out what the scooter was about. Now I know both and I'll take this chance.]

A similar problem that I notice as a chronic pedestrian is behavior of motorists at pedestrian crossings. In Seattle, the right-of-way for pedestrians is pretty firmly implanted (which makes it dangerous to ped around in other cities, actually), but it is strange for me.

I can be waiting at the curb for a break in traffic, and someone will stop for me. They often stop right in the middle of the intersection, blocking all four lanes and the vehicles behind them. And I am still at risk from vehicles coming from the left, say, that I can't see easily beyond a row of parked cars.

I signal "no," I do all sorts of things to wave people through, and lately I have simply resigned myself to crossing the street, tipping my hat, and going on my way.

What bothers me is that there is no way for me to allow motorists to get out of the way, yet they are creating a mess, I don't exactly feel safer in this situation, and I resent the consumption and dispersion of petrochemicals on my biodegradable behalf.

Sometimes I will turn my back and walk away from the intersection to convince them I am not about to jump in front of their bumpers, allowing the intersection to clear before I make another try.

Is this weird for crossing streets on the scooter too?

# Michael S. Kaplan on Friday, November 18, 2005 1:39 PM:

For crossing streets, the problem is just as annoying. though I have a slightly easier way to deal with it. I can point the scooter as if I am not about to cross and then look in the other direction, and they will go ahead. Then I can cross after they have gone. :-)

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