The Happiness Connection  

For whom the doorbell rings

A conversation this week left me wondering whether the doorbell will soon go the way of cassette tapes and typewriters.

At a breakfast meeting, my table somehow got onto the subject of how we react when someone unexpectantly comes to our front door.

One person shared a recent experience of being alone with his niece and nephews when the doorbell rang.

In times gone by, a knock on the door or ringing of the bell was greeted with the same universal action. Someone, often everyone, got up to answer it.

In my childhood home, there was a flurry of activity before the door opened. My mother wanted to make sure the living room and entrance didn’t look like a disaster. The expectation was that someone would be coming in.

I can’t remember ever being cautioned not to answer the door, or even to look out of the window to see who was there. It didn’t matter how much you disliked being disturbed, you answered the door.

Go back a little further in time and you will find houses with rooms dedicated to the possibility that someone might show up on your doorstep unexpectedly. Every respectable household kept the parlour in pristine condition just in case someone dropped by.

In contrast, when the doorbell rang in this modern situation, the adolescent children went in search of their uncle to let him know that someone was at the door. His puzzled response was to tell them to answer it.

They weren’t keen to do that, so he went to the door with them.

It turned out to be friends picking the kids up to go somewhere.

Why do we regard a knock on the door with such suspicion? For one thing, it is rarely a friend just dropping in for a visit.

Nowadays, your doorbell is more likely to announce the arrival of someone trying to sell you something or collect for a school or charity. That isn’t great incentive to stop what you are doing to answer the bell.

When was the last time a friend came to your door unannounced? There may be an age distinction on how you answer that.

Most people with mobile phones text or phone to see if you are home and let you know their intention to stop by. This is a win-win in my mind. You don’t drive somewhere only to discover no one is home, or that it isn’t a convenient time.

I’m of the opinion that texting to announce you are outside someone’s house is the way of the future. This means when someone comes to your door, they are likely to be a stranger. But remember, not all strangers are trying to sell or collect.

A few years ago, I answered the door to find a lady in distress. She was out for a walk and was still several blocks from home. As they say in the U.K., she had been caught short. She had an urgent need for a bathroom.

This is an uncomfortable situation for any adult. You know you must find a bathroom, but who do you ask? She chose to knock on my door because she had seen me working in my front yard over the years. She got the impression that I was friendly. I was happy to help.

Fifty years ago, people who pretended they weren’t home when the doorbell rang were thought to be strange and possibly mentally unbalanced.

Today, not answering is the norm. Entire families freeze and look nervously at each other in total silence. It’s as if they know nothing good is going to come from an unexpected ringing of the bell.

A decade or so ago, we used to get teenagers from the nearby park ringing our doorbell at all hours of the day and night and then running away. When the doorbell broke, I decided not to replace it. I haven’t had a doorbell in many years and haven’t missed it.

Anyone who knows us is aware of the situation and knocks. If they are persistent enough to knock as well as press the bell, I usually answer, but not always.

If I’ve washed my hair in the early evening and am sitting cozily in my nightie, I ignore unexpected people wanting my attention.

Times have changed and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I wonder if a time will come when knocking on a front door without prior notice will be bad etiquette? This may seem sad if you enjoy having people just drop by.

You can’t stop change from happening, so don’t waste your energy mourning what was, especially if there is nothing you can do about it.

As Bob Dylan put it, “The times they are a changing.’” This is something you can know for sure.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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