Who knows what this little door is for? It measures about 11x5 inches.
I noticed it recently, which doesn't say a lot about my observational skills. But, in fairness and defensiveness, I will say it's located outside the back door of my apartment, which I rarely use. And that's the neighbor's planter, so it's not like I've been watering a plant and ignoring completely a mystery door. Okay, enough mea culpa.
I live in a gorgeous, Spanish-style building, built in the 1920s, with a courtyard, so I usually go in-and-out along the red-painted path (pictured below).
After I noticed it, I pondered this door and then it came to me what its purpose must have been...
In the early part of the 20th century, people received lots of home deliveries. Since the little door is located off the kitchen, I believe it was so the milkman could put bottles inside and not leave them to the elements. How cool would that be, to get up in the morning and find fresh milk waiting? No trip to the store necessary.
Besides the fun of discovery, this little light-bulb moment made me realize how important the small details are in our stories. We may not be writing historical fiction, but creating environments that come across as authentic is necessary even in fantasy, sci-fi or dystopian fiction.
Perhaps a check list would be a good tool in order to avoid assuming our world is their world. How do our characters get milk? What do they read and in what format? What's on their feet and why? Are there hairdressers? Do they sleep on mattresses or something else? What if their eyesight is poor? Are there musical instruments?
The list could go on and on, but I hope the little door will remind me to be more attentive to the small things that make a world go round.