You’ve probably seen this: You’re standing on the corner, waiting for the “Walk” sign. Someone comes up and hits the button on the lamppost.
And then they hit it again.
And again. In the most egregious cases, it makes the same sound that a woodpecker makes when he’s smashing his beak into a tree.
It’s like a B.F. Skinner operant conditioning experiment gone rogue, the desire for instant gratification coupled with a desire for control, magical thinking, and a profound lack of understanding of how things actually work (hint: one gentle push from one person is adequate to toggle the signal for the next green light cycle, but you still have to wait for the green).
Oh, and I’ve seen it happen with elevators, too.
There’s a similar phenomenon in the women’s washroom at work. People flail away at the lever on one particular paper towel dispenser, pushing it too fast but not quite far enough, causing it to jam rather than dispense towels — and then they keep pushing until the backlog of towels is hopelessly backed up and crammed deep in the roller mechanism. At that point, only a member of the janitorial staff with a key to the machine can put things right again.
The secret to avoiding problems like these is to do things mindfully, and at an appropriate speed. Sure, I could type 130 words a minute if I wanted to. No, the words oawianb and seriwoofasodre aren’t in my dictionary. I’d much rather have 90 wpm and zero errors, or even a relaxed 60 wpm before my morning coffee kicks in.
Quality work, and quality play as well, is a matter of proper pacing and proper understanding. Multitasking, especially the mental multitasking that jangles the nerves as a deadline approaches, is the enemy. Move with grace and calm, even if it’s five minutes to quitting time. Especially if it’s five minutes to quitting time. Stay on task. Breathe. Press gently instead of flailing or thumping or bashing. And whatever you do, don’t keep sneaking peeks at the clock. Do clean, elegant work the first time, because it’ll take even longer to fix a bunch of oawianbs and seriwoofasodres.
And on your way to the bus stop, please don’t do woodpecker impressions on the “Walk” button. The light will turn green, and you will get where you’re going.