Here's The New "Holding The Door Open For People" Rule

05/21/2015 01:04 pm ET | Updated May 19, 2016

In terms of usefulness, holding the door open for someone falls somewhere between gesundheit and helping a person cross the street.

Acknowledging a person's sneeze by saying a random German word is of no real benefit to society. In fact, it's slightly insane. Next time a co-worker coughs, follow it up with tereyağlı gözleme- the Turkish translation for "buttered waffles"- and see if you get a thank you or a strange look. I predict the latter.

Meanwhile, assisting a person who is crossing the street is sort of helpful. I mean, assuming the person wants or needs your help. Chivalry is to help an old lady cross the street, though when you think about it, how often do you see old ladies crossing the street? It's pretty rare, like a solar eclipse or having a good time at a nightclub.

But holding the door open for someone? Well, it's not exactly necessary. Most people are able to open a door on their own. On the other hand, it saves another human being a couple seconds of effort. (Coincidentally, "a couple seconds of effort" is also a perfect way to describe the making of The Expendables film trilogy.)

More importantly, I suppose, holding a door open is a nice way of telling another person, "Hey, life is hard but we're all in this together," which is probably more appropriate and less crazy than literally telling the strangers who happen to be leaving a restaurant the same time as you, "Hey, life is hard but we're all in this together." Or, if you don't want to hold the door open for people, then just say to the strangers who happen to be leaving a restaurant the same time as you, "Gesundheit."

Honorable men used to hold the door open for women who were passing through. Perhaps I'm old-fashioned, but I still believe in a world where men do this sort of thing, not because I oppose "feminism", but because I value common courtesy. I also believe in real, actual feminism: economic equality for both sexes in the workplace, stricter policies protecting women against violence and harassment, and waiting for the Entourage movie to hit DVD instead of seeing it in the theater.

One takes a risk by holding the door open for people who are entering or exiting a crowded establishment. Sometimes, you innocently hold the door open for a few people, but those folks are immediately followed by more and more people. And the line of people never ends. After the sixth or seventh person passes by, are you still expected to keep holding the door open? I mean, I have a life, too. How long am I expected to stand here with the door open? The hope is that an appreciative person in the moving-line-out-the-door will take the baton and assume the mantle of "standing there holding the door open."

Men don't always like to hold the door open for other men. It's a weird masculinity thing, like not crying in public or pretending we don't watch Pitch Perfect every single time it's on cable. Hence, many men have perfected the "swing the door open" system. You don't hold the door open and wait for the other person to walk by. Rather, in an exaggerated motion, you swing it open, immediately letting go of the door's surface, but giving the other guy an extra couple beats to pass through a semi-open door. The man-to-man door-swing is usually met with a "thanks, bro" nod. Hey, life is hard, but we dudes are all in this together,

Sometimes, the stranger for whom you hold the door open doesn't respond with a "thank-you" or even an acknowledging nod. They don't even look at you. They just walk right past you, out the door, as if your kind gesture was owed to them. Don't take it personally. That person is a worthless, self-entitled jerk with no ability to comprehend basic human decency or compassion and he probably has the corpses of murdered family members stuffed in the meat freezer in his basement. I mean, there's a reason you never see anyone holding the door open in those ISIS recruitment videos. But don't let this occasional sour incident turn you off from holding the door open in the future. Basic social etiquette- like Kanye's career- is much bigger and more important than individuals.

Sometimes, a well-intentioned person will hold the door open too early. Premature e-hold-ulation. It's not uncommon to be a good thirty or forty feet away from a held-open door. So your pleasant stroll turns into a quick, stressful pace... in order to appease the door-holder. I've been guilty of this myself. You know that someone is walking behind you. You want to be polite. You open the door and hold it open and turn around. And then you quickly realize the person behind you is actually kind of far away. Now you both have to suffer through the awkwardness of socio-forcing the person to speed up because, well, you made an effort to hold the door open and the least another person can do is make a few "walking" concessions in order to repay your hospitality.

So I'm declaring a new rule. You're welcome.

Fourteen feet.

I've measured it. Fourteen feet is the exact distance that separates a polite gesture from the hassles of having to change your walking-speed to accommodate the idiot making your life more inconvenient by holding the door open way too soon.

Is the other person thirteen feet away? You hold the door open. Fifteen feet away? You don't.

It'll probably take America a few months to get used to the new rule. So if you're leaving a store and someone eight yards away is walking in and you instinctively start to hold the door open for them... no problem. Just let go of the door and keep walking. The other individual will understand and appreciate your lack of effort. No social awkwardness.

Learn the new rule. Practice it.

Holding the door open is an important gesture. So it's important that we get it right. After all, there are thousands of profession doormen. There are no professional gesundheit-sayers.