Why Do People Congregate in Doorways?

“F ellow travelers. Here in the good old USA we walk/drive on the right. Should you find yourself constantly staring down face to face hordes of people dodging around you going the opposite direction, you need to select your ‘other’ right. Furthermore, when necessary to stop and collect yourself, masses bumping, cursing and similarly dodging you like a school of baitfish avoiding a pack of predators, you need to move the hell out of the flow! Self Awareness, clearly a lost art to the airline flyer……..”

The quoted paragraph above was posted by a friend of Ed Pizzarello of Pizza in Motion — and I tend to agree with the logic: not only do I walk on the right side everywhere I go to avoid that dodging dance people tend to play as they walk towards each other; but I also walk on the left side in countries where it is compulsory to drive vehicles on the left side of the road.

Why Do People Congregate in Doorways?

The “rules of the road” at an airport reminded me of another question I have always wondered: why do people congregate in doorways through which people are trying to walk? They block entrances to washrooms. They block egress to restaurants. They have been known to even block the entrances to either a moving walkway or to a moving conveyance such as a train when the doors are open.

This is not only a problem at airports. It also tends to occur everywhere else: in catering halls; at hotel and resort properties; and at meetings as three examples. A group of people stop to chat in doorways while blocking traffic for other people who are trying to get through — especially when there is plenty of room to step off to the side to chat. What is so important that the conversation must occur in a doorway?

I suppose an extension of this behavior can be people who congregate while using a moving walkway without leaving room for others to pass; or a phenomenon known as “gate lice” where people will block the gate so that they can be ready to board the aircraft — despite being assigned in the last group to be called to board…

…but those are topics for another time — as well as the clueless person talking on a mobile telephone; unaware of anything going on around him or her and therefore gets in the way of people trying to move through the airport.


A simple and polite excuse me while in motion to the people blocking your way usually resolves the issue virtually instantly, which is typically accompanied by what appears to be a sudden awakening by members of the group who congregate, as shown by the surprised looks on their faces as though they were standing in the middle of a freeway: “Hey — we are blocking a doorway. We need to move out of the way.” Another person will usually apologize.

As for the people who congregate in doorways: airports are facilities where people can be in a hurry to catch a flight or barely grab a meal prior to a flight. Please be more mindful and just step a few feet out of the way so that people may pass. Thank you in advance.

In the meantime, do you have any idea what would compel people to congregate in doorways? Is the issue simply a result of a lack of awareness — or is there some other reason? I am interested in hearing your thoughts — as well as any other “rules of the road” and etiquette which should be followed at airports but are basically ignored.

  1. They seem to like congregating at the top and bottom of escalators also…very annoying! Btw…if you are on a moving walkway and you aren’t walking, you should consider a wheelchair…it’s a walkway not a stand way.

  2. I believe it comes down to where you were raised. If you grew up in a densely-populated area, you learned at a young age to stay out of other people’s way. If you grew up in a rural area, you didn’t. This is an instance where city-folk should be commended for their superior etiquette.

  3. Interesting observation. I guess people congregate at doorways because it creates a sort of ‘safety mechanism’ and makes for a quick ‘exit’ if needed. Examples: a polite ‘exit’ from a conversation or an uncomfortable situation, a quick and quiet ‘exit’ from seeing someone they don’t want to see at a party, etc. People also congregate at the doorways of a subway so they can dash out quickly at their stop, even though their station-stop is more than 3 or 4 stops away. And I guess it could be a lack of awareness too!

  4. When someone is blocking my path like and are seemingly starting off into space, I say “excuse me” but it isn’t “politely”. I usually say it in a clear, firm, tone not angrily or loudly but they get the idea. Sometimes it gets a little bit of a look but I couldn’t care less, they are the dope slowing everyone else not me.

  5. Because they are self-centered fools with no awareness of other humans, if indeed they are themselves human. You see them everywhere: churches, schools, shopping aisles – they stand there, taking up valuable breathing air to yak like chimpanzees on Benzedrine. They are one of the tiny plagues of existence. That’s why.

  6. Guess this guy was trying to be PC. I’ve only seen this behavior in women, and got here doing a serch for “why do women block doorways” It seems to be hardwired in their DNA. Just a little while ago a group of gradeschoolers came into the library. The boys went about their business, the girls gathered in a group blocking the doorway to gossip.

  7. Ben Marcum that’s interesting because I just had to move an adult male dressed in head to toe designer clothes. This guy was blocking the train doors by standing half in the doorway half out, while people are simultaneously trying to exit and enter. I said excuse me but he was too involved in a conversation with his buddies who were also blocking the door, so I moved his bookbag like I was opening a door and just barely made it on. Right before the door closed he looked at me bewildered and I calmly said “Why would you block the doors? Don’t do that.” to which he sarcastically responded “It’s okay, no problem”. I just stared at him in disbelief over his entitled and dismissive attitude. At the next stop I stepped off (as one with manners does) so people could exit and held the door for a family and older man pushing a luggage cart, they all said thank you and no one had to rush or push. I take the airport train to work and see this behavior daily from all walks of life. Also if you think women are bad you might want to Google “manspreading” haha. Just my two cents =)

  8. “A simple and polite excuse me while in motion to the people blocking your way usually resolves the issue virtually instantly”; …not in england; you get scowled at like they want to kill you, whilst they move one way and then backwards, leaving not enough space for you to have to squeeze past, as opposed to infact moving (and i thought it was america that was supposed to be uncivilised…)

    “please can i enter the grocery shop that you are not letting me enter, adding an abominable amount of minutes to hundreds of persons time, so i can, as opposed to yourself attempt to buy “food” ? – “HOW DARE YOU!”.

  9. If I knew why people liked to block doorways then I would know how to stop them from doing it. It has always been one of my biggest pet peeves. Unfortunately I don’t. I also wish I knew why so many people like to walk directly into my path and stop so that I have to also stop, go around them or bump into them. I know they see me because they are usually looking directly at me when they do this. Both issues don’t seem to have any correlation with how crowded or empty an area is.

  10. I’m in counseling, partly for the very reason of not feeling safe in public places because of people blocking entrances and exits, and have been diagnosed agoraphobic. ‘Excuse me,’ works but it still bothers me that I have to wait for someone to choose whether or not they feel like letting me pass when there is a consensual unspoken agreement that I should be able to move freely within exits and entrances without interrupting an engrossing conversation. I’m shorter and softer spoken than others, so I almost have to shout to be heard just for the people moving away to ask each other, “What’s her problem?” As if clearly stating, ‘Excuse me,’ is offensive.
    I knew someone who, rather than excusing himself to have a phone conversation, would begin yelling over other people around him and then would ask them to give him some privacy rather than going somewhere more private himself. I don’t know why people do this. I don’t know why I have to say something when they do it. I think people who do this are inconsiderate. I have seen all different kinds of people do this no matter the age, or race. I’m still upset I moved to the right for someone who didn’t budge. I guess I was standing for ‘her highness.’ I was on a hike almost an hour from the nearest city and a woman managed to take up the whole path and look at me as if she were annoyed.

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