I once worked with a man called Matt. People kept walking all over him.
There are people who claim that they can tell what kind of person you are by the food that you eat, by the clothes that you wear, by the pet that you have. There are even those – wait for this – who claim that your personality can be determined by the configuration of the planets in the sky at the time of your birth!
Far more scientific is the study of doormatology, the relationship between the humble hall doormat and the person who placed it there. Practitioners of this art are known as doormatologists, not to be confused with dermatologists, who generally have little or no interest in doormats, except in cases where they might cause skin irritations.
Using case studies and pie charts, doormatologists claim that they can tell what kind of person inhabits a house simply by studying the doormat that sits humbly outside of the hall door. Naturally, this is of interest to us in Dublin 15, well-known, due to the building boom, as the doormat capital of the western world and in the interest of the community, I have been doing a bit of research into this comparatively new science.
Generally, doormats come in two basic shapes. There is the rectangular and there is the semi-circular, although I have come across a rather fetching oval shape in Hazelbury Park and word of mouth tells me that there is an Ireland-shape mat attracting some media interest in Lohunda.
But these are very much the exception. The world, to all intents and purposes, is split into two people – those with rectangular doormats and those with semi-circular ones. The rectangulars outnumber the semi-circulars by about four to one, achieving a comfortable majority that is unlikely to be usurped in the next generation.
The common doormat (doormatus doormatus) generally should have stiff tan-coloured hairs over a rubber backing. Some people occasionally use off-cuts from a carpet but this holds no sway with the true doormat lover, who point out that the off-cut has neither the penetration of bristles to clean a grooved sole nor the rubber backing to stop it moving when it is stood upon.
The most common doormat is of course the plain rectangle, replete with the aforementioned stiff tan-coloured hairs. Functional and strong, the person who owns this is a no-nonsense, down-to-earth practical sort of person, the type who expects nothing more of a doormat than to clean the soles of shoes before the wearer enters the house.
A variation on the above is the doormat where the rubber backing extends around the basic matting, like the black strips around your television picture when one of the kids changes it to 4:3. This sort is no good for going tobogganing as it is built to be immobile. The person who purchased this sort of mat obviously has more of an eye to the dangers of slipping and possibly underwent a traumatic fall sometime in their childhood.
Some doormats have a rubber pattern with the matting inlaid between the black strips. Most commonly of herringbone design, these mats demonstrate a determination by the owner to combine functionality with artistic endeavour, seeing the doormat not only as a shoe-cleaning tool but also as an adornment to the family home. This design is most usually found in the semi-circular or half-moon shaped mat, where the rubber strips form the shape of a fan. Picasso is thought to have favoured this particular design during his little-known Buff Period.
Some mats forsake the rubber backing, opting to have the matting inlaid with strands of wire. This industrial-looking mat has a tendency to curl at the edges, though it is quicker to dry out after a downpour. The house resident is probably a company man, seeking reassurance in the display of corporate strength.
You would think that a doormat adorned with the word “Welcome” would indicate a warm-hearted gregarious person who is happy to invite all-comers through the door. Not so, said Leon Winkelhalter, Professor of Doormatology at Syracuse University, whose 2004 paper Doormats and Sarcasm, caused quite a stir in scientific circles. Winkelhalter maintained that the Welcome mat was in fact highly sarcastic and indicated a desire to keep the world away from the front door. He later famously retracted this view at the Madrid Symposium, after he was hit repeatedly about the head with a rolled-up newspaper by Dr. Wessler of Leipzig.
What is more accepted is the reverse view that mats adorned with “Go away” or “Get Lost” show that their owner is very much a fun-loving person, choosing the doormat to reflect their outgoing personality. Similarly “Beware of the Dog” probably demonstrates a) that the owner has goods worth robbing and b) that the household pet is no bigger than a budgie. However, the possibility that the house contains a vicious Rottweiler should not be discounted by would-be burglars.
Some doormats have little pictures of footprints on them. This seems to indicate that the house owner feels the need to indicate in a flat-pack-assembly-instructions sort of a way what the doormat is intended to be used for. Teenagers in particular seem to have little notion on how to wipe their feet with any degree of thoroughness, so the house bearing this mat probably contains a harassed middle-aged mother of two boys.
It is said that Lionel Richie has “Hello! Is it me you’re looking for?” woven on his mat. The fact that he wishes to remind the world of this particular crime against music would appear to denote a particularly self-delusional personality. Rumour also has it that Lisa Minnelli had “Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome” on hers. Zsa Zsa Gabor was rumoured to have a doormat made of alpaca hairs and inlaid with genuine rubies, a trend unlikely to be copied by anybody in the Dublin 15 area.
However, the simple purchase of a doormat is not enough. There are a few simple rules to be followed in the placement of the item. For example, when laying a semi-circular doormat, it is imperative that you align the straight edge with the bottom of the door if you want to avoid social ostracisation. Also, nothing sets the neighbours’ tongues wagging than buying a rectangular doormat and placing the shorter side up against the door. One prospective chairperson of Laurel Lodge Residents Committee could not find anyone to second his nomination because of this social faux pas several years ago.
So, the next time you approach a neighbour’s front door, take a quick glance at their doormat before you enter. Oh, and wipe your feet.