DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was taught to hold open doors for ladies, as well as allow ladies to enter and exit elevators before myself. But are there any guidelines for occasions when only gentlemen are present?
I have to admit to feeling a bit silly having a gentleman approach a door ahead of me, then open it and allow me to pass ahead of him. Also, I have been in situations where several gentlemen will all motion for the others to precede them into or out of an elevator, resulting in everyone looking at each other and waiting for someone to enter or leave first.
GENTLE READER: It is always polite to let someone else go first, but as Miss Manners realizes that after a certain point, comedy and irritation are unavoidable, she does have a few practical suggestions.
Do not repeat an offer to let someone else go first. Call this the Abbott and Costello Rule. This means that the last person to say “You first” is the last out.
Do not make the offer if acting on it is impractical -- if, for example, you are standing at the front of the elevator at the midpoint of the door with 15 men behind you in the car. Call this the Marx Brothers “Night at the Opera” Rule.
If you really feel the need, you can always turn around after you exit and put your hand on the door to hold it for the next person. Miss Manners never objects to politeness, but if properly handled, exiting an elevator can be accomplished before the alarm sounds and the door closes on some unlucky rider (the Buster Keaton Scenario).