Why is it so difficult for people to push their chairs under the table?
We’ve all (hopefully) learned some basic manners when we were kids. In addition to knocking on a door before entering a room and chewing food with a closed mouth, one of the lessons we (should have) learned was pushing in our chair when we got up from the table.
Working in a library that abounds with tables and chairs, I’m continually amazed how most adults have a problem remembering such a simple task. I can understand the kids are still learning their manners and forget to push their chairs back in, but the adults? You’d be surprised how often I do walkabouts around the tables and in the computer lab to push chairs in and keep things tidy. It’s equally astonishing to see someone sitting at a table with other chairs intruding on his or her personal space. I’m sure it’s easier to have those chairs crowd you than to take the extra five seconds to push them in.
This behavior of adults is not limited to the library. The next time you go shopping in the mall, take a good look at the food court. Once you divert attention from the noise and the aroma, peruse the chairs. Are they all pushed under the tables? Chances are, the ones that are pushed under were just done so by the cleaning crew. Even better, wait until you see some people get up from the tables. Do they actually push their chairs back in or do they leave them out? I’ll wager that they keep them out.
Maybe some people have a fear of being in contact with a chair longer than absolutely necessary. After all, chairs are associated with a number of bad childhood memories: sitting at the dinner table and being forced to eat every speck on your plate, sitting hours into the night doing homework you despise, sitting to practice the cello that your parents made you take up…the list goes on. But while getting a glass of water in a dark kitchen at night, should you trip over that chair you earlier forgot to push under the table, you’ll probably remember that lesson you learned long ago. It takes just a moment to push in a chair. Why aren’t more of us doing it?