Thursday, November 29, 2007

Please Don't Slam The Door

At the center where I work, I share a bungalow known as "the trailer" with a staff of seven: the Executive Director, the development team, and another director. This trailer is also where the photocopy machine, the color printer, and the postage machine all live. We see a lot of human traffic throughout the day, people darting in and out, very often in a hurry.

This is what our day sounds like:

SLAM!!

WHAM!!

BAM!!

KA-BLAM!!

...as people slam the door in and out, all day long.

The slamming breaks everybody's concentration and barks everybody's nerves. Hard to write grants and interview volunteers and everything else we do while the building is shaking and lamps are wobbling on our desks as if the blue line train had veered from its course and slammed into us.

It bothers Scott the most, so naturally he is the one who took the initiative and posted the sign on the door:

Please don't slam me.

-The Door


As he explained to many visitors, the door often slams so hard that the lamp on his desk shakes and threatens to fall. The possibility concerns him greatly. That lamp is poised to fall at any moment - one hopes there won't be an earthquake.

Anyway, here's what our day sounded like after he posted the note:

SLAM!!

WHAM!!

BAM!!

KA-BLAM!!

* * *

Since that didn't work out, I tried an email. A short, friendly, funny email that worked in a suggestion right out of Thich Nhat Hanh: maybe use the door as a reminder to slow down, take a breath, and proceed mindfully. Can't hurt, and might even be good for your life. Was it Thomas Merton who was asked what he had learned first in the monastery, and he said, "How to close a door?" Well, someone said that - and how wonderful it is. That was a good monastery.

Here's what our day sounded like after my beautiful email reached the staff:


SLAM!!

WHAM!!

BAM!!

KA-BLAM!!

* * *

At this point, Scott announced a strategy of shame. When someone slammed the door, he would announce them on the intercom. Within minutes, he was calling people out.

SLAM!!

[INTERCOM] "JULI, DON'T SLAM THE DOOR."

WHAM!!

[INTERCOM] "PAUL, DON'T SLAM THE DOOR."

And so it continued.

To be completely honest, it is easy to slam this door unintentionally. The trailer is not the sturdiest of structures - more of a temporary structure. The door is as solid as any of the walls. It doesn't take more than an extra footpound of energy in the wrist or fingers to slam that door, and any one of us in the development trailer is liable to slam it in the haste of a moment.

Which means that inevitably, on his way out to another part of the center, Scott slammed the door.

And I did what had to be done:

[INTERCOM] "SCOTT, DON'T SLAM THE DOOR."


As the staff laughed, the trailer door slowly swung open. Scott stood in the frame. He gazed sharp, flaming daggers at me, a gunslinger ready to draw, and he said: "Did I slam the door?"

Unanimous assent: he had definitely slammed the door.

Scott said, "Well. I owe you all an apology. And I owe this door an apology, most of all. Dear door, dear colleagues, dear center, I apologize from the bottom of my heart." And with this song of contrition concluded, Scott turned on his heel and departed once more...

...SLAMMING the door as hard as he could.


So, once again, I did what had to be done.

When Scott returned to his office, he found his desk lamp overturned and lying on its side, light beaming upward, a ray of dust particles glowing.

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