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Here’s something that always amuses me about London. At stations, in office buildings, or wherever there are doors that need to be pushed open, if there is a door held open for even a moment, everyone will try and squeeze through it rather than open one on their own. So if you have several glass doors lined together, such as the ones in the picture below, if someone pushes through one, people will immediately follow endlessly until someone comes along, decides to be different and pushes through an unopened  door. And then the river of people has a new channel to flow through.

Norman doors at Canary Wharf

Are people that lazy? Well the truth to some extent is that maybe they are. But also, these doors tend to be fairly heavy and to push through one “from scratch” requires a bit of an effort (at least for me) followed by a loss of momentum. And a loss of momentum is absolutely unacceptable in London, especially during peak times when everyone is running about, severely caffeinated with expressions like zombies. An outsider may well argue that with the lack of adequate sunshine and their pasty complexions, and this tendency to mechanically flow through open doors actually does make Londoners seem like zombies.

If a Londoner sees an open door, he will run or scamper or at the very least quicken his steps to make the most of it! But this whole affair actually affords a chance to be sociable, even if for the very briefest of moments. If you hold a door open for the person coming through behind you, and they happen to be at a slight distance, you will be thanked. Verbally. Or you may even get a smile! This is perhaps the ultimate or maybe even amongst the only ways of acknowledging a stranger’s existence here – except when you are dodging them of course. What about the act of holding a door open for someone for a moment longer than you need to pass through it yourself earns so much gratitude? I did this for someone today and got such a big smile it actually made me cheer up a bit. This may sound like a load of rubbish but this is a huge deal in a city that studiously avoids eye contact in public transport!

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