It’s the Little things.
Like a remote door closer.
One of the small things I miss about working in an office environment is the remote door closer. It is a small mechanism anchored to the wall behind an office door. With just a touch of a button, the connection between the wall mount and a magnet on the door magically release, allowing the door to close. Ah, so effective!
During a job interview with a Fortune 500 company, I was answering questions and hoping the executive wouldn’t see me sweat under what I hoped was a calm, cool and confident exterior. This man was a tough nut to crack with a hard veneer that betrayed little emotion. Was what I was saying in line with his theories or strategies? It was impossible to tell. He only asked questions and didn’t give insight or feedback to my answers, not even a head nod of acknowledgement. Later I would learn his nickname was “The Iceman” — it was apropos.
What I decided to do in that interview was to go with my gut: answer the questions by being true to my knowledge and experience. It worked as I was offered the job and then a few years later a promotion to work directly for him. During the time I worked with him, he and I established a steady and professional albeit always somewhat distant relationship. He once confided that, due to his position as CAO, he would not make friends at the company. Ultimately he was responsible for all human resource activities, and it didn’t serve him well to make friends with whom one day he might have to hand a layoff notice. It was an interesting premise under which to work, but it matched his personality.
Now back to the remote door closer. During the interview, a group passed by in the hallway with raised voices. Without comment, he reached under his desk, pressed a hidden button and his office door silently, swiftly and deftly closed leaving us in relative quiet again. There was never a beat or pause in his demeanor as he didn’t need to get up and walk the 15 steps to shut the door. At that moment, I could see how manually closing a door could be a silly annoyance for him. As a C-level executive, wasn’t it imperative to eliminate any little inconveniences encountered in the work environment? Standing up to close a door was one of them.
Of course, I had seen remote door closers before, but never had I seen them used so stealthily and so often anywhere else. I soon discovered that all those in the executive suite and only a few outside the glass doors enjoyed the convenience of a remote door closer. It was a coveted perk, eyed enviously by others who were relegated to standing up and manually closing their own doors. It wasn’t until I myself was located in the executive offices that I became the owner of a remote door closer. I tried to avoid it, with all the best intentions.
For the first several weeks in my new office, I shied away from the button. I was youthful, energetic and fully capable of walking to the door to shut it. Sometimes I even made a show of it, standing up and saying, “Just a second, let me close my door!” Slowly, however, I began to succumb to the ease of the remote. Staying late one night, I was still there when the cleaning crew entered the suite and began their task of vacuuming, dusting, and emptying waste and recycle baskets, interrupting my solitude. Furiously working to finish a report for an early morning meeting, 15 feet seemed a football field away so I reached out and pressed the button. With a quiet click and a smooth whoosh, the next thing I heard was the carefully controlled snap of the door gently shutting, blocking out the external noise. I sat back and took it all in. It really was luxurious to stay at my desk without interruption. I now understood.
From then on, I began to use the remote for incoming confidential phone calls or meetings in my office. Having the remote door closer was like having a special parking permit for the C lot – there were only so many and unless it was bequeathed to you with grandeur from the CEO, you weren’t getting one. It was the oddest of perks, but I didn’t complain.
Plenty of companies have more advanced technological toys and accoutrements in their offices. The workspace at this company was severely outdated: cold-war era steel desks in beige carpeted cubicles, coffee machines without any franchise-brand coffees, and fax machines still occupied prominent places near copiers. However, I remember those little remote door closers with fondness for that corporate workplace. Sometimes when the neighbor’s kids are involved in loud game of play or there is a lot of construction traffic rumbling by on the street, I yearn to reach below the desktop and press the button and shut out the noise.