Sunday, June 14, 2009

Wait Your Turn

"Wait your turn" is something we are all taught as children. It's a simple way of saying, think about others before yourself; be cool, you'll get your chance.

I believe if everyone remembered to follow this simple practice, our days could be less stressful and even happier.

This can apply to many different situations:

  • Getting in  Line -  like at an airport, where the entry gate is obvious (that big ass door with the gate number above it, and the airline employees standing adjacent), and so is the line behind it. Why form your own merge lane?

  • Driving - just like in the Pauli exclusion principle in quantum theory, two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, so don't force your way in, especially when there's plenty of room in back of the line.

  • Parking - the exercise will do you good, so let the close spots go. Also, don't pretend you didn't see the pedestrians coming. What's a few more seconds?

  • Entering a Building - hold the door for others, just because you should.

  • Career - if you're just graduating high school or college, you're not meant to immediately be making six-figures with your own home, new car, and every amenity know to Engadget. Take your knocks like the rest of us and enjoy the journey - it would be quite boring if it really was all handed to you. And if you've been in one for a while without advancement (meaning you've missed your turn, or several of them), reassess your strategy and your company. Maybe it's your turn for a change to something better.

  • Politics - if your party isn't in power (White House or Congress), start working on finding new solutions that work and a viable opposing candidate for the next election, rather than whining, spewing venom, or spinning information to make everyone look bad, including yourselves.

  • Love - it usually happens when you stop looking for it, so don't rush to the finish line, especially with someone who isn't running the same race.

If you can think of it as you are always exactly where you are supposed to be, why would you try to get somewhere else before you're meant to? Leave that to cats, who never remember why they rushed into that room anyway.

A few weeks ago, I was late and hurrying into work. I came to a stop sign and crosswalk. I noticed a young woman was jogging towards the intersection, so I waited and waved her across. As I drove off, I looked in my rearview mirror and noticed a car heading the other way, rather slowly. Perhaps they were lost. But I also wondered if they had noticed the same jogger. She was running through a large park & ride lot (which was full of cars but not people because it was after 10 AM) and towards a park that is very active on evenings and weekends but virtually empty during the workday. I watch way too much TV and couldn't get the nefarious what-ifs out of my head. Then I thought about the concept of angels among us.

I'm certainly no angel, or even a religious person, but the further I drove, the further I felt compelled to turn around. I was already running late and still wanted my morning coffee, but I couldn't shake the idea of leaving someone, even a stranger, vulnerable.

In addition to serving as corporate tethers, that's what cell phones and blackberries are for anyway. So I turned around. She was long gone and so was the car. And there were a few moms with kids at the playground. As I headed back to work, I saw her jogging up towards the shopping center, back into the population.

Nothing happened. No heroics required. I wasn't needed at all. Or, perhaps, because I turned around, my simple actions had a ripple effect that changed events that could have unfolded differently. Who knows? But I felt I was exactly where I was supposed to be.