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Universal Etiquette, Lesson 1 - Knocking

You’re outside of a room, and you want to get in. What do you do? Clearly, you knock, right? Right.

But do you think about how you knock? And how you approach your knocking? Probably not. And that’s bad (imagine your favorite uncle shaking his head disapprovingly at you - it helps to better illustrate my point). 

There are many different ways in which one can knock on a door. Here are a few of the most popular.

General Access Knock

When knocking in order to gain access to a room, you knock with your knuckles four times, in a straight eighth note pattern. For those of you that are not musically inclined, that would sort of sound like “clok-clok-clok-clok”, with an even space between knocks, without any sort of emphasis on any one knock. 

That’s for general access into an area, typically to a space you are familiar with and have access to, just do not have a key. The people inside the door may or may not be your friends, but they are not your enemies. More often than not, they are people you know.

Inquisitive Knock

This knock is used when you are looking from a response from a person behind the door. You may or may not desire access to this area, but you do want to speak with whoever is behind the door. This knocking patten is almost always an odd number, typically three or five. Like the general access knock, it is done with the knuckles.

Again, for those that can read music, that would be two eighth notes, plus a quarter note - or four eighth notes and a quarter note. 

Ex. “clok-clok-clok” or “clok-clok-clok-clok”

Instances in which you would use this knock include, but are not limited to:

  • knocking on a neighbor’s door to ask for a cup of sugar
  • knocking on a bathroom door to ask a user when they will be finished
  • knocking on a bathroom door to find out if there is a user
  • knocking on a neighbor’s door to determine the origin of an odor
  • knocking on a bathroom door to determine the origin of an odor

The Expected Knock

This knock is to be used when the person/s behind the door are expecting your arrival. Since, they are awaiting your knock, there is no need to be polite with your knocking and there is no need to knock for any extended length of time. This knock can be similar to the three-knock inquisitive knock, but with more emphasis, but is more commonly a simple, two-knock pattern (two eighth notes). 

Situations to be use this include, but are not limited to:

  • when those within the door have previously granted you permission to enter, but you want to be polite
  • if you have been locked out, and making an overt effort to be calm and rational

This knock can also be used to announce an impending entrance. When the door is unlocked, or you have the key, but want to warn the person/s inside the door that you’re coming in. 

NOTE - THIS KNOCK IS HIGHLY INEFFECTIVE IF YOU DO NOT ALLOW FOR THE PERSON/S INSIDE THE DOOR AMPLE OPPORTUNITY TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE FACT THAT YOU ARE COMING IN. IF YOU DO NOT PLAN TO WAIT FOR A RESPONSE FROM THE PERSON/S INSIDE THE DOOR AFTER KNOCKING, THEN THERE IS NO POINT IN KNOCKING SINCE YOU WERE COMING IN REGARDLESS. 

Countless experiences of mutual embarrassment, feelings of awkwardness, and incidental blindness could have been avoided if only people would follow that simple rule. 

ANOTHER NOTE - IF YOU DON’T KNOCK, AND PLAN TO JUST BARGE IN, THEN YOU HAVE NO ONE TO BLAME BUT YOURSELF FOR WHAT YOU SEE AND/OR WHAT OCCURS AFTER YOU SEE IT. 

LET ME IN! Knock

This is ONLY to be used in extreme circumstances. It is an all out assault upon the door. You are not knocking as much as you are banging. You goal is to violently attack the door in the hopes of eliciting a dramatic response from the person/s inside the door. 

Again, only use this in extreme circumstances as it could cause severe bodily harm to all involved and perhaps those not involved. Here are some acceptable circumstances to use this knock:

  • if you or something near you is on fire
  • if you have reason to believe that you or something near you is going to explode
  • if you or something near you have pressed a button that should not have under any circumstances been pressed
  • if you are being chased with a gun
  • if you are chasing someone with a gun
  • if death and/or destruction is imminent 

I cannot stress how important it is for you to be absolutely sure that danger is afoot before utilizing this knock. Clear and present danger. I mean, you have to be in really deep shit in order to justify knocking on a door like that. 

But I digress. This is an EMERGENCY knock. If you use it, you will cause panic and aggressive action. So unless you like seeing innocent people get knives pulled on them, DO NOT USE THIS KNOCK.

Here are a couple of closing notes. 

It’s a good idea to establish unique and recognizable “code” knocks amongst friends and roommates. That way, it’s easy to identify who is knocking.

When speaking to someone behind a closed door, speak clearly and into the end of the door. Not into the door. Imagine your words leaving your mouth and entering into the door through the tiny slits between the door and the wall.

Always remember that whenever you enter a room, you are entering AT YOUR OWN RISK. 

Thank you. 

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