12 March 2010

Where are the Grown-ups?

I think that I have been realizing this for a while now, but there have been a few picture-perfect reminders that most, or at least many, adults are just small children in big bodies. I think as a young and eager college student, I had some idea that when I started working that people would be much more mature and "grown-up", and somehow when I came to Oxford, I thought that there would also be this air of maturity and wisdom. Well, I am starting to realize that the search for grown-ups is futile. We are all just children wrapped in wizened packaging. Don't believe me? Here are a few examples of how adults behave exactly like (or worse) than children.

1. Adults still don't know how to ask a question.

A few years ago in Des Moines, I went to a local elementary school to read to young kids--I think first or second-graders. At the end of the books, there was a time for the kids to ask questions. I don't think we heard a single one. There was lots of the typical hand-flailing eagerness (that sadly is not present in many adults), lots of "ooh, ooh, ME"s, and LOTS of statements. I think one kid started it off with, "One time, I had a snowball fight." Strangely, EVERYONE in the class had recently had REALLY epic stories about snowball fights. Also, coincidentally, none of these statements were questions (for those who are keeping track at home). I immediately thought that the rest of the curriculum should be scrapped until kids mastered questioning--now that is a life skill.

However, the experience is illustrative. First, question-asking was just perceived as an opportunity to talk--an opportunity that was embraced whole-heartedly. Secondly, there was a significant amount of self-promotion and competition hidden behind these failed attempts at questions.

I was at a lecture last night and after the hour talk, the floor was opened up for questions. The first guy had apparently had to be silent for too long and took advantage of the chance to get his talk on. He proceeded to wax for three or four minutes on various issues (he had three points). There wasn't even a "What do you think about (ALL OF) that?" at the end. This behaviour is not atypical (and was repeated by several participants), because "question-time" is somehow interpretted as "time for me to "subtely" demonstrate what I know". Seriously, everyone. How old are we?

2. Uncivilized cuing (lining-up).

I flew with EasyJet last weekend, a discount European Airline, and I was baffled by some of the behavior. To get on the flight back to London from Munich, you had to line up at the gate to go down the tunnel, then you had to pile onto a tram at the end to deliver you to the plane, then you had to line up (either in the front or rear of the plane) in order to board. Let me tell you, when the doors to that tram opened, you would have thought that not everyone was going to get a seat (and that everyone had some life or death reason to need to be on the plane--which in fairness, I am sure in each of their minds, they did--like getting back to their computer to check their e-mail or something). I have a few thoughts for these adults:

a. We are all going to get to board the plane.
b. It is not going to leave until the last person gets on the plane, so you RUNNING is not going to get it to leave any sooner, regardless of how much you are in a hurry.
c. I know that the window/aisle seat in the front/middle/back of the plane is really important to you, but you WILL survive.
d. If it is really important to you, buy the membership card that allows you to pre-board so that you do not have to make a fool of yourself.

Frankly, it reminded me of when you open the door to the lunchroom and all of the kids sprint to be the first one in line.

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