John B Keane: ‘In the name of God, close that door!’

THE human race is a mixture of many sorts, each necessary to form a whole or general picture.

THE human race is a mixture of many sorts, each necessary to form a whole or general picture.

We are told that it takes all kinds to make the world, but I wonder if we have more door-bangers than are strictly necessary.

Before I go on, I am prompted to ask, which is the greatest crime - banging a door noisily or not banging it enough so that it remains slightly ajar.

The latter, of course, is worse because the former only succeeds in unsettling the nervous system which can almost always be recomposed after a few months in an expensive sanatorium.

The partly open door, however, is a menace to joints, noses, heads, kidneys, lungs and backs because the partly open door is the breeding place of the sly draught that cramps and stiffens before it is discovered.

There are certain common phrases which are used to such an extent that they have become part and parcel of our existence. Expressions such as: “The same again please! and “Any chance of seeing you home after, Miss!” are in the top 20.

Abusive terms like: “Put on a jersey ref!” and “Put him off!” belong in the top 10, but the one which is truly number one is “In the name of God, please close that door!”

Boys aged between the ages of five and 20 are notoriously absent-minded in the matter of door-closing but girls are worse, because a girl in a hurry is not conscious of doors and all girls from the age of three to seventy are guilty of gross neglect. If you show me a young lady who has closed every door in the round of one day, one single day, mark you, not 30, I will present you with my shirt. Her mother will close doors conscientiously for effect but if your back is turned and she’s in a hurry, there will be a draught after her departure.

Nobody really loves a windy day, not even the poet who lauds it, because a big wind is no blessing and little sneaky winds only combine to remove a door from its hinges. Breezes and winds are two different things entirely but let us examine the strange behaviour of one of God’s created men in relation to door-closing.

First of all I will ask you to place yourself in my shoes momentarily. Let us imagine ourselves on a cold wintry night, bidding farewell to a guest who has outlived his welcome.

We are about to exchange our last goodbyes when he stalls in the half-open door to tell a story which could do without telling. The wind enters to chill the bones, to frighten calendars and sad holy pictures so that they flutter with fright on the walls and threaten to fly away to more peaceful locations.

We shiver involuntarily while he goes on with the story and we haven’t the courage to kick him hard on the seat of his pants and bang the door in his face.

Loiterers like this character, who feel no chills or thrills from the night wind should be prosecuted and brought to justice.

What joy it would bring to so many sufferers to read in their evening papers the heart-stirring headline: “Man bound to the peace for disorderly conduct in doorway”, and underneath the story: “the Justice warned the offender that if he caught him in court again, he would put him in a place where he would have no say in the opening and closing of doors.”

“I am determined to stamp out this sort of crime”, the Justice would go on, “and the next time an offence of this nature comes before me, I will impose the heaviest penalty permissible.”

Men or women with boxes or large parcels should be exempt of course, but empty-handed adults in a hurry must be made to pay for their folly.

There are some people who cannot and will not close doors. You may call them ask and say: “Close that door after you, please!” or, more bitingly, “Were there any doors in the last house you were in? But these reminders roll off them like a water off a duck. If they are in your employ, you may discharge them, but it would not be fair to inflict them on another employer.

You may caution them and warn them that unless the door is closed in future, you will use force.

This will work, but only for a while and regardless, of the threats given or punishments inflicted they will be back to their old habits with a vengeance as soon as time allows.

Is there, then, no way of curing them? The answer is, positively, not. They will be with us until somebody comes up with a workable substitute for the door. Automatic doors are not the answer because automatic doors are so automatic that they never allow for the slowness or speed of the unpredictable entrants and exiters. They confront one, unexpectedly whose had is bent in thought and they snap at the heel like village curs.

The solution may be to print a place card for every door in one’s house. On them should be written: “Close this door after you, or else”.

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