Friday, March 20, 2009

Who Are We Following?

I had an interesting experience at the post office the other day. The post office I frequent has 3 'do it yourself' postage stations where you can mail large envelopes and packages without assistance. It's a great offering, since the line in the post office is frequently long and slow moving!

I was working away at one of the machines mailing several packages. I noticed a woman standing behind me, as though she were waiting for my machine.

I glanced to the side and noticed that both the other machines were wide open.

I wondered why this woman was waiting for the ONE machine that was occupied. I assumed maybe she was waiting for something else and just happened to be standing behind me.

I finished my transactions and left the machine. As I walked away I glanced over my shoulder. Sure enough, the woman walked up to the machine I had just vacated and started her transaction!

What was up with that? Two other machines were available, including one right next to mine. Both were working. She came in after I did and just lined up behind me to use the machine. I find that fascinating.

I was doing what she needed to do... and she just followed me. She didn't take the time to look around and notice that there were other machines immediately available to her.

It made me wonder how often we just follow other people, even when it isn't in our best interest to do so. We just 'get in line' because that's what everyone else does.

Line psychology is very interesting. People will get into a line without even knowing what it's for... 'just in case' they need to be there. Fascinating.

Another recent post office experience seemed related to this phenomenon to me. In this same post office, there are two large barrel-like mechanisms where you can deposit packages once you have 'self posted' them. They have a large handle on them. You pull the handle, roll the barrel down, place your package inside and then lift the handle. The barrel then dumps your package into a secure receptacle behind the wall.

One day I was using the self postage machine for a couple envelopes I needed to mail, and I noticed several people try to place packages in the barrel next to me. It wouldn't open. Each person tried to open the barrel and several people left the post office with their packages in hand! Some people tried both barrels, finding them both locked, left their packages at the end of the counter where they seemed to hope a worker would just take it at some future time.

It was very interesting to watch. No one simply walked up to the counter and said, "Hey... it looks like someone forgot to unlock the barrels this morning. Could you please unlock them?"

I watched at least 5 people 'give up' on the barrels. This was at about 1pm in the afternoon, so the post office had been open for many, many hours.

How many people had tried to use the barrels, found them locked, and yet did NOTHING to fix the actual problem? They just accepted the locked barrels, even though it was obviously just a mistake, and either left the post office without mailing their package, or they found another way to leave their package.

I think that sometimes we just 'accept' things as fact or real because everyone else seems to be doing it. We just live with a situation that could be easily remedied. If other people see sonmething in a certain way, we often just do what they are doing.

In both these situations, people were not seeing what was possible, they were accepting something they didn't need to accept!

The woman behind me had immediate access to a machine to mail her packages, yet she stood in line behind me. The people who tried the barrels and found them locked just accepted that they were 'off limits' and didn't move to get them unlocked.

How often do we accept something that is easily challenged or changed? How often do we follow others down a path because it is the mindless path?

I think we can all benefit from opening our eyes and not simply accepting things because other people are accepting them. Many things are not as they appear and if we just change our perspective we can remedy them.

How many problems in our lives and in our world could we resolve if we just look around and see solutions where others see locked barrels? Interesting thought!

Who knew the post office could be so educational??

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