Monday, June 14, 2010

The bank

I belong to one of those banks that was bought by another bank during our last economic downturn. I've been using that branch of that bank since I first moved to New York almost seven years ago. The old bank was friendly, and that's why I chose it. The tellers stood behind small podiums with hardly any physical separation between them and I. Over the years, we chatted and I got to know them.

Then the bank was bought. The new owners of the bank took out the podiums and made one big sturdy desk with bulletproof glass continuing to the ceiling. All the tellers were now behind the desk, behind the glass. The tellers who had chatted with me for six years have not looked me in the eye or talked directly to me since the wall of glass went up. These are the exact same people doing essentially the same job but in a new environment. 

Environment directs behavior, if you let it. How is your environment affecting you?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Now Boarding on Track 4

One of the realities of living in different places all the time is that I take different routes "home" all the time. Last week I had lunch with a friend by the World Trade Center, and then took the train out to Hoboken, NJ. Since I've never done this before, I read every sign to make sure that I got on the right train. There was a sign near the track, a sign on the front of the train, and a sign over each door to the train. They all said Hoboken. I got on. Business people filled the train, headed home from work. You can tell when people are on their usual route because they don't read the signs and pay very little attention to their surroundings. They know where to go. They are on autopilot.

It turns out, they should have read the signs. Just as the doors were closing, the conductor announced "this is the train to Hoboken" and there was a general rush to get off the train. Apparently that track usually has the train to Newark. They assumed that this train would go to Newark. They did not read the signs.

Sometimes autopilot is helpful. In this case, it wasn't. If things in your environment change but you are on autopilot, doing what you always did, you end up in Hoboken when you wanted to go to Newark. They could have stayed on the train, insisting that track four always has the train to Newark, but they would have ended up in Hoboken, still wondering why they weren't in Newark. We all know people like that. We've all been that person, whether or not we've ever ridden a train. Be honest, what part of your life needs to be taken off autopilot because the behavior you've always done just isn't getting you where you need to go?

Friday, June 4, 2010

You can change the channel

Sometimes when I enter a shared space where a person is watching television, they tell me I can change the channel. They say it as an aside as they appear to be engrossed in something else. Even though they aren't watching, I find that they don't mean that I can turn the television off. I've actually tried it a few times. It plays out like a British comedy.

"Why is the TV off?"
"You said that I could change the channel."
"But I didn't think you'd turn it off."
"Oh, sorry, were you watching it?"
"No.That's why I said you could change the channel."
"So I can change the channel but not turn it off?"
"So you weren't watching it, but you want it on?"
"I just need it on."
"You're willing to have it on any programme that I could possibly choose out of 500 channels, but you're not willing to have it off?"
"Right. Could you please turn it back on?"
"I don't know how, there are too many remotes."

I'm not saying that all television is bad. I watch a couple shows online. I also don't go around turning off other peoples' televisions uninvited. I just don't understand why it's on when no one is watching it. Television is designed to attract your attention, even if you're "not watching it." How do you have a sustained set of thoughts when the television pulls away your focus every few minutes? How do you create your own reality when you are so involved in the "reality" of the characters on television? How do you hear the still small voice of God over the laugh track?

Perhaps it is time for you to "change the channel" on your television habit.
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