What follows is a tale from a long ago time when I worked retail for a small business known as Old Navy. What you are about to read is mostly true-ish.
There are a lot of stupid people out there. Maybe stupid is the wrong word. I should probably just say ignorant. Because the people I’m talking about are probably capable of reading signs. They just choose not to because they’re too lazy to do so. Even if they happen to be illiterate, certain symbols and characters should still be recognizable, warning them that something’s not quite right.
It’s a phenomenon I’ve run into in the past. People just don’t know how to act around doors for some reason. You’d think we, as a species, would have it down by now. After all, we’ve been using doors for millennia. They open, they close… simple enough? When I worked for the bank, we had a problem with people forgetting what kind of door they had just walked through. If I had a nickel for every time someone came into the branch by manually opening the door, then think we had automatic doors not five minutes later, I’d probably have a few extra bucks to my name.
Old Navy had exactly two automatic doors. But they weren’t the kind with the special device that senses your presence and open as if by magic. No, they were the kind with buttons that must be pushed in order for a machine to activate, opening the door for you. These are meant for those who are physically handicapped in some way. And also for small children who can’t seem to just let buttons exist without being pushed.
At one point, roughly a year into my stint with Old Navy, the outermost automatic door began to malfunction. I honestly don’t remember what initially caused the problem. Maybe it was something to do with the motor not working properly. Whatever the case, a repair man was called to take a look at it and he had no clue how to fix it. I was there that first night when the clueless maintenance worker came and left. We taped a handwritten sign to the door letting people know it was broken and to, please, use the manual door to the left.
Not long after this, some moron decided to try the door anyway. Apparently, they thought the sign was a hoax perpetrated by the management of the store. I’m sure if the door was really working properly and we’d taped that sign to the door for giggles, it would have been a hilarious joke. But it wasn’t a joke. The door really didn’t work. At all. And now we had more of a problem because morons like that guy decided to try the door anyway.
Fast forward to December of 2013. By that point, a number of stupid/ignorant people had tried to open the door manually (which always remained locked anyway) or push the button to activate the automatic machinery. Finally, the door had taken all it could take. Someone came by on a Friday afternoon and decided they would push that button. Just because.
The motor that should have opened the door turned on. And it didn’t turn off. It just kept trying to open the door. Even though the door was locked. Rather than allow the motor to continue making its annoying sound and risk burning out, the door was unlocked and allowed to fully open. Now, if the door was working properly, it would shut automatically, too. It would reach a certain point, the motor would turn off, then it would release and close. That day, it opened, the motor itself turned off, then it stayed open. If one were to force it closed, the motor would reactivate and fight whomever was trying to close the door.
Once again, maintenance was called. I should mention that several different people had come to attempt to fix the door, but no one could understand what was wrong with it. That night, no one was willing to come. But we had to figure something out. If we couldn’t get that door closed, we couldn’t lock the store, meaning we couldn’t go home. This was unacceptable.
I took it upon myself to try a number of things. First, I closed and locked the door. Yes, the motor kept trying to keep the door open, but I was stronger than that stupid machine. My first plan was to find a screwdriver and disconnect the arm of the door from the motor. Unfortunately the screws were kind of stripped, so I couldn’t get a screwdriver to work.
Plan B involved letting the motor fry itself. I made sure to locate the nearest fire extinguisher, just in case it was needed. But after nearly an hour of allowing the motor to run to no effect, it seemed it wouldn’t simply die.
Finally, I looked around the store for the fuse box. I assumed there would be a switch that would just turn off the power to the automatic door. The only problem would be determining which switch it would be. The store, as it turned out, had three separate fuse boxes. One was labeled with detailed descriptions of lights. Another had no labels at all. The one in the middle, however, had a card attached to the door. This card had printed, in a very tiny font, what each switch would do. And there, in tiny print, were the words front door.
I used the walkie talkie to contact one of my coworkers and asked her to listen for the motor. I would flip the switch and she would let me know if it turned the motor off. I stood at the fuse box with the manager on duty. I took a deep breath and nervously flipped the switch. The whole time, I felt like I was cutting the wire to a bomb. Then the voice came over the radio saying that it worked. The motor was off.
I felt kind of like a hero. Like MacGyver. Okay, not so much. But the door was closed. It was locked. And as long as that switch remained in the off position, morons could come along all day, every day, and push that stupid button. It would do nothing without power.
The signs remained on that door. The paper was bright orange. The words are typed out in bold print, all caps, “PLEASE USE THE OTHER DOOR. THIS DOOR IS BROKEN!!!!!” Yes, there were a lot of exclamation points. Despite this, when I was arriving to work the very next day, I watched a man stroll right up and pull on the door. That’s right, he pulled on the broken one. The one with the big honkin’ sign on it that warned him it was broken. Moron.