Sunday, February 8, 2009

Midvale School for the Gifted.

On of the funniest cartoons ever made is a Far-Side cartoon by Gary Larson where the sign outside the building says “Midvale school for the gifted” and the sign on the door says pull, but the kid in the cartoon is pushing on the door. (You can see the cartoon here at this time, but I’m pretty sure this picture won’t stay up long. Larson has been pretty strict about going around the web and making sure that his cartoons are not illegally posted like this one).

In the United States, in any public building, the doors open outwards. I think this is a law – the idea being that in the case of an emergency where everyone runs for the door at the same time, the first person won’t get smashed into the door and be unable to open an inwards-opening door. Without even realizing it though, one gets very used to pushing on doors when you are leaving a building and pulling on doors when you are going into buildings.

In the UK, there is no such law dictating which way doors should open. (Why?, I don't know, it seems like it would be a good idea). Doors open in or out seemingly randomly. I find myself constantly pushing on pull doors and pulling on push doors. It is so strongly ingrained that you should pull on a door going into a building, that I will still sit there yanking and yanking on the door when it obviously is not going to budge in that direction. Last week I even buzzed the receptionist in one building and she yelled back “PUSH”. Oops. Every time this happens I think “Midvale School for the Gifted”.

A similar gut reaction is which way to look when crossing a street. Fortunately, I don't have to cross many streets on my way to work.


Michael Rosenfeld said...

Yo Professor Vai:

I love that midvale school for the gifted cartoon also. Your blog is fantastic. Keep pushing the doors!


Anonymous said...

Another odd thing is the way the light switches work in the UK (I think however this oddness is present in the US as well). Have you ever noticed that you have to push the switch DOWN in order to switch the lights ON, and to push it UP to switch the lights OFF? In Hungary (and in Germany), this is the other way round: You push it up for switching the lights on, and down to switch it off. :)

Steve said...

..always seemed to me that light switch directions are always completely random.

Sean Carmody said...

Exit doors in the US are required to open out as a result of some hard lessons. The "Cocoanut Grove" nightclub fire in Boston claimed 492 lives in large part because the main exit was a revolving door. Fire officials estimate that outward swinging doors (and more of them) might have saved more than 300 lives. These requirements are outlined in NFPA 101 - Life Safety Code. It is not itself a traditional law; rather it is a "model" that local jurisdictions must incorporate into their local code. Many/most do so wholesale without any changes, while some enact changes that are even more restrictive.