Thursday, October 18, 2007

You're Blocking My View!

Greetings from New York City! I'm spending a few days showing a friend of mine around this magnificent place. She's never been here and I consider NY to be one of my alternate homes! I love this city and enjoy the massive variety in human expression that exists here.

Yesterday, my friend and I went on one of the double-decker tour buses to give her a nice overview of the city's layout. This is her first trip here and those buses are a great way to get a feel for how massive, diverse and fascinating this place really is!

As we took our seats up on the top deck of the bus, three Italian tourists took the seats next to us. One man took the only yellow colored seat on the bus. Evidently, this seat is reserved for the tour guide. The tour guide came up the stairs to begin the tour. He took his microphone and started to tell us about all that we were seeing.

He was standing in front of the gentlemen in the yellow seat, leaning against a hand rail as he talked with us. The man in the guide seat was maybe 3 or 4 feet away from the guide.

As the guide gave us commentary on the passing sites, this Italian trio was chatting fairly loudly amongst themselves. The guide came over to them and quietly asked if they would mind using softer voices to converse, and if they needed to do any translating, they might need to relocate a few rows further back. The chatting was pretty distracting to him as he was trying to tell his bus load of people about the city. As a tour leader myself, I sympathized with his plight. It is really difficult to keep your train of thought when people are talking right next to you. I felt he was perfectly within his right to ask these folks to lower their voices, or move further away from him if they needed and wanted to talk. Especially since one of them was in the seat that is saved for the guide!

The people kept up their chatting, and he interacted with them about it a time or two more. He was losing his patience a bit.

Then... it happened. The man in the guide seat leaned forward and tapped the guide on the side as he was speaking. The guide stopped to see what the man wanted. The man said, "Please... really... you must move. Can't you sit down or something? You are blocking my view! I see nothing!"

I thought the guide might blow a gasket. He said, "You've got to be kidding me!?!?! First, you are in my seat. Next you speak loudly while I'm trying to do my job and inform all my guests about the city and now you want me to move? Where am I going to go?" He said this as he motioned to the small aisle and the short microphone cord that he had. "I mean... look... you have a 360 degree view of the cityscape" he said, as he motioned all around us in every direction, "and you can't see? Are you kidding me?"

He said a few more things to the man and the situation did not escalate any further, thankfully! I was struck by this interaction, however, because it was actually quite profound.

This man literally had almost an unlimited view in every direction of the magnificent sites and sounds of NYC. He sat, however, with his head facing straight forward and was annoyed that the guide was blocking the view directly ahead at eye level. Truth be told, none of us were looking straight ahead much of the time, because everything was happening beside us and above us. This man acted like he couldn't turn his head... or lift his eyes. It was as though he had those blinders on, like the ones they put on horses! "You are blocking my view!" he said to the guide. He sat there like a statue, staring straight ahead, but he was blaming the guide for his lack of a good view.

It struck me that this is something we all do from time to time. We lock our gaze on one thing, in one direction, or look at things from one perspective. If something or someone 'gets in our way' as we are looking from that one vantage point, we blame them (or it) for messing up our view. Instead of changing our position, our perspective or our vantage point, we stare straight ahead and ask our circumstances to change so that we don't have to.

It was a powerful moment. The guide was not 'blocking this man's view.' He was, in fact, standing in front the the man. The world was available to this man in 98% of the available surrounding area, but he chose to focus on a tiny 2% that was in one particular direction and be irritated because the guide was standing there. He couldn't see what was available to him because he was unwilling to even turn his head! The guide wasn't blocking this man's view. The man was blocking his own view by his rigidity, his stubbornness, and his limiting belief that there was only one direction to look in!

How often do we do this? It is well worth thinking about. This rather rude and somewhat clueless tourist... and this New York tour guide taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of looking all around, having an open mind and being willing to change my vantage point when I'm not seeing what I want and need to see. The power is in my hands to experience more of the world around me. A person standing in front of me does not need to prevent me from seeing and experiencing all that life has to offer. It's available in a thousand different directions, any one of which, I can choose. I can turn my head, lift my eyes are move to a different vantage point. We all have that ability, each and every moment.

Our tour guide responding to the man's complaint. You can see the man's head... and you can see how much he can 'actually' see!

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