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Opinion >  Column

The Slice: Door holders elevate us to higher level

I don’t spend much time riding elevators in other cities.

So this is just a hunch.

But I can’t help but suspect that people in Spokane are more willing than those in lots of places to hold elevator doors open so someone approaching can board, even though this delays the launch by precious seconds.

OK, I have no doubt there are plenty of elevator riders in Minneapolis or St. Louis who hold doors.

And I am not kidding myself. I know there are Spokane office workers and hospital visitors who quietly hammer the “Close Door” button when they know someone is hot on their heels.

But generally, people here seem reliably decent about this one little note of civility.

For the record, I am not basing this observation exclusively on the elevator etiquette at my workplace. In fact, I started thinking about this after the most recent of multiple 2009 trips to a seventh-floor accounting firm several blocks from the newspaper.

As had happened before in that building, I saw a guy disappear into an elevator and then watched as his hand emerged to stop the doors from closing.

That’s the kind of little moment that gives me hope.

Why, though, would Spokane be special in this regard? Here’s my guess.

Spokane is populated by a lot of people who grew up in small towns or out in the country. These individuals were taught manners.

Moreover, this isn’t a don’t-make-eye-contact sized place. You can still be human. Well, much of the time anyway.

In fact, most of the towns where it could be said that people are even more considerate probably don’t have many elevators.

OK, I know what you’re thinking — what’s the explanation for the hostile way so many people drive here?

Well, roadway behavior is not an accurate reflection of overall community courtesy. For reasons I don’t want to get bogged down explaining, I suspect the anonymity of driving creates unique social pathologies.

Elevator riding, on the other hand, is more personal.

When you hold the door, something pretty neat happens. You get to hear someone who isn’t a cashier or bored clerk say “Thank you.”

That’s a gentle connection many of us crave and it’s not something you can always count on hearing at work or, in some cases, even at home.

And come to think of it, saying “You’re welcome” feels good, too.

•Today’s Slice question: Who will be last person around here to slip and fall on an icy patch this season?

Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; fax (509) 459-5098; e-mail pault@spokesman.com. For previous Slice columns, see www.spokesman.com/columnists. Dana Freeborn has been known to mistakenly refer to the downtown mall as “River Front Square.”

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