In Germany in the 1980s, one GI locution for home was: “The Land of the Round Doorknobs.” The high water mark of the actual general-purpose Nazis has been left behind, leaving small and pungent artifacts of Nazi specificity dotted like tidal pools in the mudflats of modern Europe. Having lived in a knobbenrein society for years on end, we have a view on this. Levers have their positive points, to be sure: you can teach yourself to open the door with your fourth point of contact, if you approach it with both hands full (and it happens to open in the right direction, which limits the practical utility of butt-opening, at least until we evolve opposable cheeks). And they’ll be ready for when you’re 80 and your hands don’t work (if the Death Panels haven’t sent you to the knacker’s, mumbling “I will work harder!” by then).
But there’s a downside to levers, too. Your dog and even cat can also teach itself to open them, letting Fido into all the things you were trying to keep him out of, like the fresh laundry, or the garbage can. They (levers, not pets) also snag on just about anything, so when you’re 80, your backpacks, handbags, shopping bags, briefcase and very pants pockets become tiger traps lying in wait to seize you and throw you down, breaking your osteoporotic hip.
The radical idea that normal, healthy and sane adults can manage a trade-off like this on their own used to be loose in the free air of West Canuckistan. BC used to be, with Alberta, the home of the liberty-loving in Canadian public affairs. What space alien has abducted the bold and hearty Canadian westerners, that they suddenly are letting their doors be managed by some gang of Vichy PQ knob-pilferers? What has become of the land of lumberjacks?
It is to sigh. Naturally, no Nazi can thrive without a crowd Sieg Heiling, and Popular Science’s Colin Lecher’s shoulder has a Strangelove spasm:
Effective in March, new housing will be required to install levers on doors and faucets, instead of the good-ol’ round knobs of our forefathers.
Cue: libertarian cries of government overreach and nanny-state-ism and evil G-men in suits entering homes and stealing all of our doorknobs despite our constitutional right to them. Fine. But anyone against the idea might feel differently when they’re pushing 80.
Lecher finds a study, from Malaysia of all places (rugged Malaysian individualism? Not feeling it), that is apparently the scientific and mathematic basis for this new Canadian foray into an attitude not seen since notorious Canadian neo-Nazi Richard Warman stalked the Stormfront chat-site (possibly the only real totalitarian, vice ATF undercover, to ever have an account there). And we run here into the real problem with the totalitarianism so beloved of Hitler, Stalin, Warman, Lecher and whoever Vancouver has made Gauleiter with respect to doorknobs: it’s Plato’s philosopher-king, reimagined as a dumbass.
The minimum door height should comply with the stature anthropometry of the 95th percentile male (72.60 cm). The door width should be the elbow span of the 95th percentile male (97.4 cm). A lever-type doorknob should be positioned at the elbow height of the 5th percentile female (81.60 cm).
Let’s explain the terms in plain English (thank God we’re not Canadian, or we’d have to do it in plain French, too). “Stature anthropometry” is cod-scientific for “height.” (You should teach that to your eight-year-old. When an aunt asks, “How tall are you,” the kid’ll come back with, “my stature anthropometry is…” and that’ll shut the old bag up for good). “Elbow span” is your width at the elbows. “Elbow height” is how high your elbow is from the ground. 95th and 5th percentile are generally accepted in ergonomics as the limits of the population you must serve — if you plot all heights, say, on a bell curve you can lop off the tails that hold the top and bottom 5% when designing your door, so it doesn’t need to accommodate Guiness Book of World Records human shapes and sizes (and indeed, if you are building a house in Vancouver for a Guiness Book tall man, you might not be able to build to suit him). Because of sexual dimorphism in homo sapiens, which is a cod-scientific way of saying men run bigger than women in our human race, using specific male numbers for the heights and female numbers for the lows, increases the range so you’re only excluding 2 to 3 percent of humans.
What this is intended to require is that a door must be big enough for a very tall man, but not the very tallest man, and that the door must be wide enough for a very wide fellow, but not the very widest; but the doorknob (er, lever, forgot we’re knobbenrein, mein Herr), must be positioned for the convenience of a very short woman, but not the very shortest. If they had gotten the numbers right, your basketball pro’s ability to negotiate the door without stooping would be compromised by his need to stoop to reach the doorknob put close to hand for the dwarf lady.
Those of you who are native speakers of SI (metric) units have probably already done the math and are snickering here. For you Americans stuck in archaic Imperial units (and bitterly clinging to guns, religion, and round freakin’ doorknobs), have a gander at the image on the left.
There are approximatelt 2.54 centimeters to an inch. So Vancouver’s Dream Door is: about 2 feet, 4 1/2 inches high, 3 feet, 2 inches wide, and the
doorknob, er, lever, is positioned 2 feet, 8 inches above the floor — which places it roughly 3 1/2 inches above the door.
It’s hard to figure out where the error is and what was really meant. If they wanted the height of the door to be a hundred and 72.6 centimeters, that’s still only about five feet seven or eight, and certainly not the 95-percent man. Of course, they may have based the whole thing on Malaysian anthropometrics — Malaysians come in many races, shapes and sizes, but compact East Asians predominate.
The Canadians, meanwhile, whatever their would-be political masters have degenerated to now, were once a race of hearty lumberjacks — who were comfortable with simple arithmetic (unlike, say, Popular Science writers) and fearlessly approached round doorknobs with confident hands.
And here you have the problem with fascism, whether it’s the malevolent kind that troops the red flag down Unter Den Linden in black uniforms, or the supposedly benevolent kind that hides behind the heartwarming symbol of the maple leaf, whilst working its evil complots upon the unsuspecting building codes. The Great Leader, or People’s Commissariat, or Philosopher King turns out to be rather lousy at making decisions for you. When you trade liberty for efficiency in government or some other good and worthy objective (security being the most renowned of these), you wind up with neither.
You wind up with doors with detached doorknobs.