There is a gentleman who works downstairs who always arrives in the parking lot at the same time I do. Almost every day we go through the same routine. We get out of our cars at the same time and then he will wait at the head of the walkway for me to get there and will let me go ahead of him and then I have to wait at the entrance to the building so he can open the door for me. It is always slightly awkward because there are an abundance of overgrown plants crowding the entryway and we always have to jostle around so that he can open the door and I think "Knights of Columbus, I can open the door myself and we could dispense with the awkwardness of this whole situation." Except that if I open the door he gets a little put off. Which, again, is awkward. I'll walk in and hold the door open for him and he'll say in a very serious voice, "You should let me open the door for you." The tone he uses makes me feel like I flunked out of finishing school.
And sometimes it's worse. Like when a third person is thrown into the mix. This morning another guy from downstairs got in between me and the regular guy on our walk down the path and the door was locked and I had my key and the new guy was fiddling with his and the regular didn't have his out. So I unlocked the door and let myself in and held it open for the fellas and then the regular guy said to the new guy, "You should have opened the door for this lady." I just smiled and said "Have a nice day," and left them to duel over my honor. Pistols at dawn!
I'm kind of middle-of-the-road on the whole door opening business in general. I think it's a very nice gesture but I never expect it. Which is the exact opposite of how Mr. Downstairs views it. It's not just a nice gesture, it's expected. The whole thing kind of goes against my practical nature. It's more practical, and less awkward, for me to open the door if I'm the first to get there. I don't do it because of some feminist principle - as in, "I don't need some man to open any door for me," - I do it because I can and I feel kind of ridiculous standing by a door waiting for someone to open it and let me in. Obviously, because we have this little schtick, I'm going to let Mr. Downstairs continue to open the door for me. Plus I think it's a code of honor for him, like him mom taught him well, and I don't want to disrespect that. But I'm also going to try to get to work 5 minutes earlier to avoid the whole thing. I hate awkward.