Human Behavior

Throwback Writing: Monkey See, Monkey Do

dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes

Every so often, out of the kindness of this supposed heart of mine, I go out and purchase some random treats for the members of my team at work. These treats usually consist of various different candies and sweets. I find that this acts as a nice morale booster. And as an added bonus, it gives me hope that a steady influx of candy will slowly kill them over time due to heightened glucose levels.

Take that, ineptitude!

I kid, I kid.

Sort of.

Anyone who has been to Manhattan can attest to the fact that there are Duane Reade stores on every other block. It spreads somewhat like this thing called cancer I read about once upon a time. Unfortunately, cancer doesn’t offer such convenient shopping opportunities in ideal locations. Nor can I get candy from cancer. At least I don’t think so. I’ll have to consult with my doctor on that one.

Wow, I tend to go off on tangents, don’t I?

So today I decided to visit the Duane Reade across the street from my office building to acquire some diabetes-inducing snacks. Once I selected a decent variety of chocolates and snack packs I make my way to the cashiers only to find a line longer than the Trail of Tears (It’s only a matter of time before I offend someone reading this). There are at least 25-30 people muttering complaints under their breaths and impatiently shifting their body weight from one foot to the other. I then look at the cashiers and observe the brightly colored signs that are posted at each register stating ‘PLEASE FORM A LINE AT EACH REGISTER.’

Without a further moment’s hesitation I bypass the snaking line of customers and head right for the next open register. Behind me I catch hints of protest and profanity, but sure enough others join me and begin to form lines at each register. I couldn’t help but grin as I imagined each person exclaiming “I am Spartacus!” as they left the line they were once a part of.

Let a dork have his moment, ok?

Join me in putting the pieces to this puzzle together. We have multiple available cashiers. At each cash register there is a sign informing customers that patrons should form lines at each open register. However, everyone congregates in a single line regardless of the obvious instructions regarding line formations. What went wrong?

Most people suck at being individuals.

I’ve seen this happen a few times before, but let’s practice consistency and continue with the Duane Reade scenario. Let’s say a person is waiting for a register to open up. He’s standing there patiently. Cradled in his arms are several cans of energy drinks, some tube socks and baby oil. He’s in for an interesting night, I’m sure. Person 2 approaches and notices Person 1, but doesn’t take notice of the sign indicating the formation of separate lines so she takes position behind our Red Bull consuming friend. Person 3 is ready to checkout and notices both the line and the sign. He seems a bit torn because the sign is telling him one thing, but people are doing another. Why rock the boat? Everyone else is waiting in one line so that must be the right thing to do.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

You may be saying to yourself, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a line.”

To that I say, “Shut up, stupid.”

I kid, I kid.

Sort of.

Yes, this is a minor example, but this is also indicative of how people tend to veer away from being free thinkers. Of course I understand that, realistically, humans are a community-based species. With this comes the desire to belong and an instinct to adhere to socially accepted behavior. I totally get that, but I also believe in moderation. If I were to label you a blind follower, would you take that as a compliment?

There’s a risk of non-acceptance when being an individual. Regardless of what most people say, we have an innate fear of not being one with the “tribe.”  I may be talking out of my ass here, but my limited knowledge tells me that if we’re social creatures, we will, at times, throw logic to the wayside in order to voluntarily assimilate ourselves.

It’s easier to belong I suppose.

So where is the balance stricken? Conformity isn’t always a bad thing – regardless of how down on it I may seem. Conformity helps us to find some common ground. I suppose, as with anything, moderation is key (a running theme in this book). Is it possible to conform and be an individual simultaneously?

Absolutely.

Is it easy?

Probably not. Not for everyone at least. But when is any change worth making in your life ever truly cut and dry?

Underwear, I suppose.

Today I went to Duane Reade to pick up some candy. As I approached a line of customers longer than the Trail of… well, you know… I spoke to every other person I walked past and let them know they could form a line at each open register. They thanked me and eventually everyone else followed suit.

Sometimes all the tribe needs is an individual to stand up.

Peace out, party people.

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