Friday, July 4, 2008

When the human mind blocks itself

I am usually working in an office with some 40 other colleagues. The best piece of the office is (at least IMO), the espresso machine. It is one of these machines, which does everything for you by putting a cup on it and pressing a button: Coffee beans are grinded (wonderful flavour), pouring water, and finally pressing the coffee into your cup. That's it and the result has something you could actually call crema. (That is, it doesn't taste as well as in your favourite restaurant, but much better than what the traditional coffee machines gave you.) I like it and visit the place several times a day.

Of course, the "does everything" part ends for you. The water is empty? Got to refill it. No more beans? Got to fetch a bag from the rack. Other tasks include cleaning the machine, decalcify it, and the like. In german, the word user is frequently translated to "Bediener", which could as well mean servant. But that's as it is, you simply do it and are well of not to spend too many thoughts about it. (And, in particular, not writing silly blog entries like this ... :-)

The only question arising: When is the right time to perform these tasks? If you got your coffee and the machine informs you that it needs water, should you do this immediately, or leave it to the next coffee drinker?

Of course, it is polite to do it immediately. And, because it is polite, you are expected to do it. But, for whatever reason, you tend to visit the machine and find it announcing that it needs water or beans. May be, its people like me who honestly wish to be polite, but are simply too absorbed in their thoughts to notice the message when leaving. May be, there actually are (as some of us believe) undecent parasites, which leave the work to others. "It's always me" is a typical phrase near the coffee machine.

Now, let's try to consider the unimaginable: What if we all would decide to leave the job for the next one? Would it mean more work for anyone? Yes, it would, for the parasites (I personally doubt that they exist.) and for thoughtless people like me, who would actually need to do the job themselves. It would reduce the work of the honest, upright people who get never tired to encourage us not to leave the work to them. Noone would need to feel disadvantaged. It could simply work.

Of course, it doesn't. Because, at some point, someone would wish to be polite again. And then we'd have the circle. The human mind blocks itself ...

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