When I arrived at work this morning, there was a sign on the outside of the door next to my desk to use the other door. I did so with a smile on my face. After all, it has long been a source of irritation to me, as long as I have had my desk in that particular location, that people were able to enter the door next to me without having to swipe their badge. This is, of course, a security risk, and since no one else was apparently irritated by it, my report on it, which was soon verified, was the first complaint made about it. It was also one that drew a swift response to see it fixed, by first preventing the door from being opened at all from the outside until it could be fixed. Apparently, many people did not wish to see an obvious problem fixed because it was not their peace of mind that was bothered by people entering and leaving without their badges and causing a great deal of noise and disturbance. Of course, it should be noted that I am unusually sensitive to having people behind me or in close proximity and I am also very sensitive to loud noises that are not coming out of my mouth, but it is out of the quirks of our lives that our behavior is influenced and shaped.
Of course, merely putting a sign on the door does not itself shape behavior as one would want. During the course of the day, a great many people absent-mindedly tried to swipe their badges and enter the door despite the fact that it was barred shut, some of them banging at the door for me to open it for them, which I refused to do, telling them to read the sign on the door. Those around me, of course, laughed at my frustration at the folly of people trying to open the broken door next to me, given that it was apparently visible with popping veins. Nevertheless, people kept trying. Additionally, some of my more enterprising coworkers added custom signs on the door (and on the doorknob) to use the other door on the inside of it, in order to reduce the outbound traffic going beside my desk. For the most part, these ad hoc signs were respected as well, except by the upper management, who did not appear to respect any barrier to their desired path out of the work area.
During the course of the day, one of the employees of the IT department came by to help one of my neighbors move from one desk to another, and he remarked his irritation that every time the door would open it would trigger a silent alarm that would send an e-mail message into his inbox. He knew something about the door was broken, but did not know the precise nature of the problem until it had been reported to him thanks to my original complaint yesterday. Mechanically speaking, the issue appears to be related to a striker plate that is only supposed to open when a valid key swipe is made. As it happens, the striker plate was stuck in the open position, preventing the door from locking in the first place, a problem with a complicated origin, if the conversation of the various handymen and IT people behind me this afternoon was any indication. Naturally, being someone who is always curious about what is going on around me, I wanted to know what they were up to. No one is sure, of course, when the door will actually work properly again. For now, it remains closed to the outside world, as it should have been when the first person noticed that it was broken and no longer barred entry to anyone.
There are a lot of symbolic implications that can be taken from this, for those who are so inclined. One can think of various parallels to doors and gates and their being open or closed based on the behavior of others. One can think about my own rather unfortunate tendency to be surrounded by broken people and things . One can think of my own unfortunate and sometimes extreme curiosity and excessive sensitivity to the movement of others and the sounds and sights in the world around me. Certainly, were I less prone to be startled easily, I would be less offended by the traffic behind my seat, but that same sensitivity is what enabled me to act in such a way as to keep the office safe. That which is a nuisance and a source of distress for us can serve positive benefits in that they make us a better sentinel and more prone to alert others as to problems, which can be a very good quality to have, even if the costs to one’s peace of mind and comfort can be a bit high, and the benefits of acting in ways that improve the safety of others distributed to many. No one ever said life was fair, though, or that just because signs were put on doors that people were attentive enough to their surroundings to read and heed them. Just like in the Edwin McCain song, the sign on the door says, “Sorry, we’re closed,” but that doesn’t mean that anyone bothers to pay attention to signs anyway, even when people are helpful enough to post them.
 See, for example: