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#5 When you push instead of pull

This probably won’t be the last post about doors. These magnificent inventions have been around for a very long time and yet we cannot seem to fully understand them. We have awkward automatic doors [post coming up soon], we misunderstand what proper door etiquette really is, and the most popular human error: understanding the  push/pull signs.

These signs are usually posted on doors, but I can definitely see why people miss them. They are usually small, and the font usually is adjusted to fit in with the overall theme of the establishment (C’mon people, imagine the word “pull” spelled out in the font that is used on the Chinese food “kari out” boxes) and they seem to blend in with everything else. So what do we do? As we approach the door handle, we think to ourselves:

“Oh, what does that say? Oh wait, I don’t need to bother reading anything. I got what I want from this restaurant, I’m happy. I’m loving life. And why bother to double check if the red octagon sign reads “STOP” on the way home. I am too good for this.”

Pop. Rattle.

The door won’t open.

So what to do? You pulled on the door and it didn’t open. Now you would think you know what the obvious thing to do in this situation is, but no ladies and gentlemen. We look around nervously to see if anybody saw our mistake and then we pull again.

Ha ha. Stubborn door.

If you’re with someone else at the moment, they are the best reminder that the best option to get yourselves out of the restaurant alive, you must push instead. Of course, this other person has no idea of what you’re going through! You have better things to think about at the moment,

“Did anybody see me?” and sometimes we even consider that the door might be broken.

Why can't we just have revolving doors everywhere?

Now let’s get serious.

There are probably real reasons why we are always pushing instead of pulling. I mean, pushing is a lot easier than pulling (unless you’re a tow truck), but what I believe is a better reason that accounts for this situation is that the words look too much alike. PUSH and PULL are both four-letter words, they both begin with P, their second letter is U and they take up the same amount of space on a sign. It’s almost as those freeway signs (those of us in Los Angeles, know what I’m talking about). The words NORTH and SOUTH look the same and it can be the cause of missing the on-ramp.

To finalize, here is a real tip for you to remember next time you are approaching a door handle. It has been proven over and over, with very few exceptions; so you should be good for about 90% of the time:

If the door handle is vertical, it means pull. If the door handle is horizontal (bar), it means push. (If anybody thinks of a clever way to remember this, please let me know)

Fine print: This tip does not apply to automatic doors, car doors, or revolving doors.

I was trying to find a picture to give you a visual of this, but I had no luck. I’ll snap a couple of pictures next time I’m out. While people awkwardly look at me.

  1. So, yelling at it “Come on, you stupid thing” and kicking the door (in hopes it will open) is not advised? Note to self…


    April 13, 2011
    • Hahahahah some people have actually done that!!

      April 22, 2011
  2. Jess #

    The Cheesecake Factory has doors where only one side has a handle and the other side has nothing, so you have no choice but to push! They’ve got it down.

    June 11, 2011
    • In a perfect world, every door would be like that. It would save us a lot of embarrassment haha.

      Thanks for reading, Jess!


      June 12, 2011
  3. Anna #

    vertical sounds closer to pull then to push…
    maybe vertipull?? idk

    May 10, 2013

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