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To the lady who hit my friend with the door

Posted by Robin Abrahams  July 9, 2007 08:39 PM

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Dear lady who hit my friend with the door--

My friend and I were walking down the corridor where my office is. You were coming out of the bathroom. You opened the door quickly, presumably disregarding the notice on the inside of the door suggesting that you not do that, and hit my friend with the door. And then you sort of scuttled off without looking at us, and without saying anything.

Clearly, you knew you had hit my friend with the door. Your shamed scuttle, not to mention the fact that the door sort of bounced off him and back onto your hand, told me as much. And yet you did not apologize. You seemed to be under the impression that if you did not draw further attention to yourself, my friend would not notice that he had been hit by a door.

The friend in question is one of the keenest social observers I have ever known, and I am darn-tootin' sure that he noticed that he had been hit in the face with a door. That's just the kind of astute, tuned-in guy he is. And while he is not the most scientifically-minded of people, he has a sufficient grasp of basic physics to know that the door did not fly off its hinges and hit him independent of human agency, but rather that the blow to his face was causally connected to your precipitous exit from the ladies' room.

Every now and then, we can screw up and not say anything, and everyone can pretend that whatever we did never happened, and it's better for all concerned. You can, for example, usually get away with pretending that the silent-but-deadly that's poisoning the air of the conference room didn't come from you. Everyone wants to pretend it didn't happen, not just the offender.

But if you have HIT SOMEONE IN THE FACE WITH A DOOR, you cannot pretend it didn't happen, or that it wasn't your fault. You have to swallow your embarrassment and APOLOGIZE.

Don't be so scared of life, lady who hit my friend with the door. We all make mistakes. We all have the right to expect tolerance and forgiveness when we ask for it. You don't have to be perfect. You don't need to scuttle away in shame, striving for invisibility. You just need to look people in the eye and say, "I'm so sorry I hit you with the door! I didn't mean to be so careless. Are you okay?"

That's how the grownups do it, lady who hit my friend with the door.

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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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