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.


Dieck said...

Its funny Mike mentions these thoughtless actions by many in such a timely manner. I, too, was thinking about line etiquette and “paying it forward” while I was dining out over the weekend. Lines are the basis for all civilized countries, the sprockets on which all business is done. When this etiquette is breached, all hell can break loose. I give you two examples.

I witnessed some of the more flagrant offenses right here in the “Choose Civility” county we work in. Recently, I held the door open for a businesswoman and business man to enter Red Robin. Not only did I NOT get a “Thank-you”, but they rushed up to the hostess (in front of me) and put their name on the waiting list. Maybe Mike is right, I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Being first in, they may have ordered the last of the burgers that fell to the floor while I got a fresh one, straight out of the freezer. So, maybe, at least in my mind, the breach of line etiquette did help me. Interesting thought, Mike, as once dropped; twice fried burgers aren’t even close to being as tasty as fresh meat.

To me, line etiquette is almost never followed while driving. That’s probably because it’s harder to kick someone’s ass that’s 5’2” in a 4300 lb SUV. One of the common themes here is, “Warning, left lane ends in 1 mile” syndrome. The “Let’s follow out the lane until the yellow flashing arrow and by-pass all of these sheep waiting to move ahead in the right lane" sinners know who they are and why they think they are getting ahead. Alias, a few months back, I witnessed why I was exactly where I was supposed to be. You see, even in a 4300 lb SUV, it’s hard to pass a 20 ton dump truck while it splits the lanes. (You know the guys with the big oysters that rides out both lanes in an attempt to throttle back the joker who thinks lines “aren’t his thing” and is speeding past everyone) Let’s just say that the SUV was pretty much pinned under the back of the 20+ ton dump truck, both drivers on cell phones, dump truck driver smiling. Dump truck was exactly where it was supposed to be.

I call these little “wins” Karma, loose time somewhere waiting in a line, make it up someplace else. Mike calls it “being exactly where you are supposed to be”. But whatever you choose to call it, wherever you live, during this frayed economy, we need it now more than ever. Invest in a civilized world. Respect the line. It will be worth the wait.

Thanks Mike for a thought provoking blog. I look forward to the next.

Lulubelle B said...

Sometimes you're in the right place, do the right thing, then realize you could've done more.

I was on line (yeah, I'm a Noo Yawker) at Giant, impatiently waiting my turn at the self-checkout station. The woman in front of me kept rescanning her debit card while talking on the phone and trying to herd her whiney toddlers. Her card was rejected for the third or fourth time and I was loosing patience.

Then I started really seeing what was going on. She was arguing with a roommate about who had paid for the groceries in the fridge at home and who was entitled to eat them. And she wasn't using a debit card, it was one of those electronic food stamp thingies. She looked at me and said, "Ma'am, would you have 48 cents I could borrow? I'm coming up short and there's nothing left on the card." It was the end of the month and she was buying a few things that were clearly meant to be supper for herself and her kids.

Magnamiously, I gave her a single out of my wallet, then refused the change. She left.

I rang up my order, paid and was almost to my car before the V-8, forehead-smacking moment arrived. I should have given her a twenty to cover her whole order...and maybe that's why I was there: to learn that doing the bare minimum is just the bare minium.

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

Mike said...

Lulubelle- Thanks for sharing! You helped another human and quickly pulled yourself out of being annoyed by the frenzy of others.

One Wink at a Time said...

I like how you think.

thestrongone said...

Awesome!......this is validating for me, because we think alike.....and act alike in this way....thanks for posting your terrific story, so that others, as well, can be INSPIRED BY YOU!! You rock, Mike!! .peace.

Mike said...

Thank you, Linda! And thank you, Holly! Not sure about inspiring, but I do enjoy it when people connect. And agree with me. :-)