I was running errands this morning and when I tried to exit a retail location with my cart, I came face-to-face with a woman who was trying to walk in. We shared a confused look. She was confused because I wasn’t getting out of her way. I was confused because there are large, blue signs that read “please use other doors” on both glass doors that should’ve signalled the woman that she was entering by the wrong entrance and I couldn’t grasp why she’d foolishly walk into the wrong doors. Although I shouldn’t automatically assume that this woman could read, one would think she could have taken a hint from everyone else entering by the other door…
This is a common trend that has become more prevalent these days. It seems that most people are so rooted in their own “little world” that they disregard basic instruction from outside sources. And you can see it almost everywhere; from people who park in handicap spaces without a permit, folks who leave their shopping carts in the middle of parking lots or take up two spaces for their car, people using their cell phones while walking and almost barrel into someone ahead of them (and then keep right on going without any regard or apology)… One of the worst ones is travelling along a high speed roadway and having someone pull into the space I’ve left as a safety pocket between myself and the vehicle ahead of me. That gap was there so I could brake safely in the event of an emergency, not so you could squeeze your jacked-up Chevy pick-up truck in front of me, causing me to brake suddenly. Douche.
But before I allow my temper to compromise my self-control, let’s examine this phenomenon a little deeper. As a martial artist, and given my chosen career path, I consider being firmly aware of my surroundings to be of the utmost importance. But even to someone who doesn’t have this experience or similar training, awareness of one’s surroundings is kind of important. Especially if you consider that most people will walk out into traffic without looking both ways, simply because they believe they have the right of way. They don’t stop to consider that the driver may not see them in time to respect their right of way. This is why we teach our children to “look both ways”, but that’s a lesson that doesn’t seem to carry into adulthood.
According to an article by the Association for Talent Development, “we can take in thousands of bits of sensory data in seconds, cross-reference that data against the information stored in 140 billion brain cells in a micro-second, and retrieve memories of everything from a recipe, to our first date, to our current project plan from the same group of stimuli. And that’s just what we are thinking about on the conscious level.”
Pretty impressive, right? So why the hell can’t the average person just follow simple instructions and courtesy while out in public. A part of the above-noted article seems to be of the opinion that with everything happening on the conscious and sub-conscious level, it’s no wonder that some people don’t quite seem to be paying attention.
Part of the issue may be that we now live in a world where our digital devices provide our conscious mind with all the stimuli we can handle and the simple tasks in the real world depend on our body’s automated functions instead. This is similar to walking into a street sign while your eyes were lowered, reading a book. Not that I’m speaking from experience, of course…
A serious part of our survival depends on our ability to pay attention. This has always been true, throughout the evolution of humanity. And that truth is no less a reality now.
We live in a world of faster machines, increased crime rates and constant hazards and dangers, but our minds have stayed just as fluttery as they always have been. We need to pay attention. We need to keep our eyes up and watch what we’re doing. Our very survival may depend on it. ☯