This blog was first published in my community blog Life Goes On for the St. Albert Gazette.
You can learn stuff about life at the bottle depot. Sitting in a long line recently, I had plenty of time to kill. I watched as car after car unloaded their bottles. The idea of sorting and counting the bottles before arriving at the bottle depot seemed to be lost on most of the people. Each car rolled up to the window and began unloading boxes and bags of empties that the attendant then had to sort and count.
Why does it matter?
When all of us would like to have more time, the simple task of “sort and count ahead” means everyone in the line is not waiting around for you to get your act together. Do the math. Let’s say it takes you ten minutes at home to sort and count. Let’s say no one takes the time do it. Multiply those ten minutes by ten cars in the line-up. That can add up to a lot of time waiting for the sorting and counting to happen there.
Yes, you might say, but sorting and counting ahead of time is such a inconvenience. And that’s the point. Seems like we live in a world where we are willing to inconvenience others so that we ourselves aren’t inconvenienced.
Same principle applies to putting your grocery cart away rather than leaving it blocking a parking space. Or not parking your vehicle between the lines, particularly on a day when parking spaces are at a premium. Or picking up your dog poop.
It’s a circular problem – let me inconvenience you and you can inconvenience me.
I don’t think it has anything to do with how nice a person you are. I think it has everything to do with being too busy to pay attention.
One of the side effects of our uber busy lifestyle is that we tend to zone out. We become me-my-I focused. What do I need to get done? What’s next on my list? In that inward focus, we are simply not mindful of what we are doing. We forget that we don’t exist in a vacuum. As we go about our day, our behaviour has an impact on others. And it’s not always a good one. It might not be a huge inconvenience, but each small occurrence has a cumulative effect.
I can be just as distracted as the next person. I’m working on it. I like to ask myself, “Is this action helpful?” In order to do that, I have to not be running through my day at a breakneck pace. The faster I go, the less mindful I am of my actions.
It’s easy for we baby boomers to point to “those other generations” as the source of the problem. The millennials are self-absorbed and the gen-xers are just cranky. Except that’s not true. When I look around I think we are all in this together. Seemed to me there were lots of 50-somethings who couldn’t count at the bottle depot. This is not a generational phenomenon. It’s a cultural one. All of us need to move at the pace of mindfulness.
What I know is the attendant at the bottle depot always thanks me for taking the time to sort and count. I’m always happy when I don’t have to dodge shopping carts when I park my car. I really appreciate not stepping in dog poop when I am out for a walk. So slow down. Be less busy. Take time to smell the roses…and count your bottles.
How do you inconvenience others without thinking about it?