You Can Ring My Bell

We had the longest, most hilarious debate at work on Friday. It all started when I walked with Sarah to the post office. There was one of those bells on the counter that said “ring for service,” and nobody up front, so I did as instructed and rang it for service. This caused Sarah to freak out. When the postal employee came up front to help, she started apologizing profusely for my behavior, even making excuses for me (“Sorry about that…he likes to ring bells”) that, quite frankly, made it sound like I am not all “there” in the head.

First off, I don’t “like to ring bells.” What I like to do is follow instructions, and when there is a bell on the counter with a sign saying to ring it, I’m going to ring it! So there was no need to beg for my forgiveness. What was I supposed to do, stand around waiting for the postal employee to wander up front whenever it was convenient for him? He was hard at work sorting mail in the back and probably appreciated hearing the bell. Even if he did not appreciate it, too bad – it was sitting there begging to be rung. Literally. He can be mad at his boss for putting it there, but he’d better not be upset with me.

So I got back to the office and was relaying this story to my team. Not A Palindrome said, “I will sit in a waiting room ’til I die before I ring a bell.” This naturally led to a bigger conversation about bells – specifically, doorbells. I wanted to know if she and Deb were knockers or ringers. And for the next 45 minutes, we engaged in a spirited debate over the issue.

Not A Palindrome’s issue with bells stems from the fact that she doesn’t like to make a lot of noise. I countered by saying a loud knock is more disturbing than a ringing bell, but she explained that she knocks softly. When I asked what happens if they don’t hear her, she said she’ll knock again and again, progressively louder, until they finally do hear her – a process that takes three times on average by her estimation. I told her that she’d only have to ring the doorbell once to get the person’s attention, which meant knocking was an inefficient method, but she said she never claimed it was efficient, it’s just what she does.

Deb is a ringer like me, but makes some concessions for knocking (e.g., she’ll knock if there is a baby in the house, or it’s early in the morning). My question is, what constitutes “early”? I’m up by 7:00 on weekends, so you can ring my bell all you want on a Saturday morning and I’m perfectly okay with that. But maybe the other person is a night owl who likes to sleep in late; they might consider 10:00 early. So I’m wondering, what is the cutoff? Are we drawing demarcation lines in the sand at a certain time of day to separate knocking from ringing? And how on earth do we come to an agreement? Hell, if you work the graveyard shift, 3 p.m. might be early while 2 a.m. is lunchtime. It’s madness.

Complicating matters further, Deb said it also depends on whether the person knows you are dropping by. If they’re expecting her, she’ll knock. If not, she’ll ring the bell.

Why does this matter?!?!


In any case, I found the whole thing very eye-opening, and I’m curious: are you a knocker or a ringer?

Tara and I had quite the urban adventure Saturday. We took the light rail train into Portland (just a week after the fatal MAX double stabbing that made national news…ugh) and walked to the PSU farmer’s market. Our long, wet winter and spring have delayed the hotly-anticipated arrival of fresh berries, but finally – finally! – strawberries were available. That alone made the trip worthwhile.

After grabbing a bite to eat, Tara turned to me and asked, “How adventurous are you feeling today?” I was in the mood to step outside of my comfort zone, so we hopped onto the Portland Street Car – a new experience for us both – and randomly explored some parts of the city we’d never seen. We alternated between street cars and MAX trains and shuttle buses and eventually found ourselves at the International Rose Test Garden. Talk about taking advantage of mass transit! Planet Earth owes us big time for yesterday. At least the weather was perfect for urban exploration – overcast and in the mid 60s. We got home around 5:30 and enjoyed a low-key evening with a simple dinner, BLTs and corn on the cob, and a Netflix movie (“Black Mass” with an unrecognizable Johnny Depp playing notorious Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger).

Nobody knocked on our door or rang the bell all evening, I’m happy to report.


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

14 thoughts on “You Can Ring My Bell

  1. This conversation is so Larry like, even more so reading it back a few days later. Also, have you noticed your recent uptick in Boston-based movies lately?


  2. In a place of business – If a bell is there for an obvious reason, as in your case, I’ll ring it. If there’s no bell then I will stand and wait a few minutes before yelling out “Yoo Hoo!” In a private situation when visiting – If it’s someone I know very well and they are expecting me at a certain time, I’ll do a quick knock, wait 1/2 a minutes, knock again and check the door. If it’s unlocked, “Yoo Hoo! I’m here.” If I’m not expected, I’ll knock or ring the bell a few times then be on my way without checking the door. I consider the hours between 9am-9pm acceptable for both ringing someone up (as in calling them on the phone) or ringing the door bell (if they have one), or knocking reasonably loudly to announce my presence.


    1. I only do the “yoo hoo, I’m here!” if it’s my parents and they are expecting me. Otherwise, I give them a quick ring of the doorbell, but only a half ring. I push the bell in and hold it – it’s sort of my signature ring. I ding, but I don’t dong.


  3. Bell. I’m all about efficiency. Only exception is the possibility of a sleeping baby. I wouldn’t have to worry about it being early for someone else because it wouldn’t be early for me. I’m a night owl. People have shown up at my door while I’m still in bed. :/


  4. I would definitely ring the bell if that’s what the sign says! Heck, I’d ring it without a sign! I hate door knockers….scares the crap out of me. It just seems more aggressive to knock, rather than ring the doorbell. I would have loved that conversation!

    Middle Child is so disappointed that our two strawberry farms are not opening for picking this year due to the rain. No berries for us, unless we go to the store.

    And omg, I love BLTs and corn on cob. Tell me you sliced some avocado on that sandwich!


    1. I did not add avocado to the sandwich this time, but only because I had avocado toast earlier in the day and that seemed like overkill. I do like a good BLAT on occasion!


  5. I would do whatever the sign said – if it said ring I would ring, if it said knock I would knock. Like your fellow employee though, I don’t like high pitched sounds of any kind, so that’s probable why she reacted so extreme. But also, speaking of knocking…sometimes when a friend stops by to visit and they get off the elevator and walking to my apartment door, MANY times they will knock SO LOUD that it literally makes me jump. In fact, when my brother was visiting me last year and came to my apartment before we went to dinner one night, it sounded like it was knocking at my door with a sledgehammer. Why do people feel like they have to knock so loud?

    I haven’t eaten any strawberries as of yet, but I keep seeing them in Trader Joe’s and am tempted to buy some. I may do that the next time I’m there. Btw, those strawberries in your photograph look INCREDIBLE!

    Living in a city, I often take trains, subways, shuttle buses, etc. I really enjoy using public transportation because I am so not a car person.

    Have a faaaaaaaaabulous week, Mark!!!


  6. I’ll knock if I know there is a baby who may or may not be napping or if it is between, say, 12am and 7am (at which times I have to wonder why I am at anyone else’s door), but otherwise if there is a button to push, that’s what I am going to do. It’s what it is there for, isn’t it?


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