Shelves full of books have been written and many movies made on dilemmas and how people handle them. They typically describe BIG issues, about whether or not to save someone’s life for example – Schindler’s list, The Pianist, … The Deer Hunter, dealing with the aftermath of the war, or stories about loss like My Sister’s Keeper. I faced a dilemma a couple of days ago that I still feel the tiniest bit bad about, deep down. Silly really, because it was not a BIG issue and the outcome was overtaken by events. Here’s what happened:
Airport, gate D7. We were all waiting for an evening flight back to London, tired after several long days’ work. Looking forward to coming home again. Then came the dreaded announcement that our aircraft was still in London “with technical difficulties”. Eventually the flight got cancelled and we were instructed to queue for a rebooking, from VIP loyalty card holders down to standard card holders and then the plebs. Nice touch, that. I guess they have to make it worth our while to pursue their wretched cards. By the time they got down to my level they had just given away the last seat on the next plane. There were two of us, an American suit and me, narrowly missing out. Not to worry, said the airline lady brightly, I can put you both on the waiting list. Then she paused, and added: “What if there is only 1 seat?” I mean, what was she hoping for? A fight? We just sighed and looked at each other, our minds whirring. Well mine was, anyway. This was my Moral Moment: I really wanted to be nice and courteous, this man looked as tired as I felt; why would I take precedence; it was the right thing to do. Another voice in my head screamed NOOOOOO I WANT TO GO HOME!!! It took me longer to resolve my inner conflict than it did the other traveler, who pulled the gallant card and “in that case offered the seat to the lady”. I was obviously delighted and thanked him appropriately – not too profusely, just showing appreciation -, but I couldn’t shake the hint of disappointment at my cowardice.
That guilt made me feel relief alongside disappointment when it turned out neither of us got on the next flight home, and we both were put on the same even later one. I am comforted by the thought that I did not cause the gallant American any avoidable delays, but I am now carrying the knowledge that I am a coward. If only he’d been a rude ass. That would have evaporated my dilemma in an instant. I am a coward…
Does anything in this photo strike you?
Don’t see anything untoward? Look again. These are Facebook staff, listening to a speech by their chief Mark Zuckerberg. They chose to work there because they want to be creative, original, at the forefront of technology and other such sexy reasons. They choose to be individuals rather than conform to the suits and standards of traditional corporate life. You read about technology companies offering their staff all sorts of entertainment to relax their hardworking minds, and being pretty relaxed about dress code. No suits required, wear what you like. Show us who you really are. Now: how many people in that picture are not wearing jeans? I only spot one, or maybe two if the guy in brown is wearing chinos rather than coloured jeans. The audience is a sea of blue denim from the waist down. That does make you wonder how comfortable people really are setting themselves apart from the crowd.
It has been said that people are happier among like minded people. This picture speaks volumes to that. I could be cynical and point out how conformist these creative souls are. Or I could marvel at the primal urge of human beings to belong. I am in a mellow mood today, and inclined to seeing the wonderful rather than the weird. I’m confident those people feel pretty good about being part of that team. It isn’t a bad thing to want to be part of a group, as long as you feel you are free to be true to your core self. A trade-off of wearing a sort-of-uniform for bringing the best out in yourself and others has to be worth it. Groups have to have something in common. Let them just not tell the suits they are conformists. They are all doing exactly the same thing, even if to achieve other aims.
Knock knock – “Can I ask you a question?” The man looked at me expectantly as he hovered in the doorway. I looked up, my concentration broken. Then I remembered: he was the new lawyer, only been here a few weeks. I had never had a proper conversation with him beyond polite phrases while brewing coffee. He seemed quite pleasant and eager. As my mind was mapping him my eyes were drawn to the fly that seemed to be following him like a pet. “Sure!” I managed in my most welcoming voice. Damn, the fly was breaking loose. It struggled to propel its heavy self but managed to zigzag its way over. Encouraged, the lawyer stepped forward and asked his question. I did my best to listen while I was transfixed by the fly – I am genetically predisposed to multitask, after all. The fly was carefully picking a good landing spot. Decision made, it headed straight for a nice flat letter on my desk. My focus was razor sharp. I slid a note pad into my right hand just in time to SLAM the fly to splat. “HA!” I let out triumphantly, looking up at the visitor in my doorway. He was clinging to my door, an expression of sheer terror on his face. If he hadn’t frozen on the spot he would have turned on his heels and run. Crazy lady!! It was only then I realized what terror I had put the poor man through. I am a bad, bad person! I apologized profusely and assured him I was not usually violent. Flies just irritate the hell out of me, and I have to win over them. He has been cautiously polite to me ever since.
How frustrating! I’ve been working from home today and experienced the exact opposite of the slice of life described on the Dark Globe recently. Patrick Dykie wrote about the incessant flow of knocks on the door at inopportune moments. Whereas I was left waiting all day for a delivery that did not arrive. Then again, my work flow was churned three times by a cold call, putting me in Dykie’s camp again. Do you have any idea how many cold calls you miss when you are at work all day? They don’t even bother with real people anymore. They’re all prerecorded messages. Which is a shame because I quite enjoy to let cold callers do their spiel while I move on to something else, leaving the phone just close enough to hear their feigned enthusiasm turn into indignation when it dawns on them their audience has disappeared.
The soft side in me feels for the cold callers actually, it has got to be one of the lousiest jobs out there. I’ve done some awful jobs myself to survive, but I reckon none of them were as bad as that. I have blanked out the train station hot dog shack job because my mind cannot cope with the memory. Moving on, the bottom two jobs were sorting apples according to size in a cold store on an apple farm, and serving in a posh restaurant. You would think the apple sorting was the worst because of the sheer numbness of the task and discomfort of working in the cold, but for me the restaurant waitressing was infinitely worse. Many customers treated me like the gum splat on the sole of their shoe and the owner/chef was a more demeaning boss than Sir Alan could ever hope to be. In the apple job we would occasionally joke together, but most of the time your mind was left to wander while you acted on auto pilot. You could map out a whole novel in your head while you were earning your crust. I now understand how some people choose a routine job and are happy with it. They can leave at the set time stress-free and move on to something that really interests them. Writing, perhaps. Is there a career change in here, I wonder? Tough one. When would I have my stuff delivered then?