Right? I mean, we all like to think that we’re free-thinkers and that we’re above the herd mentality, but when it comes down to it, when we’re all sitting in a large room staring at each other for eight hours, don’t we all just sort of meld together?
I thought about this yesterday several times while languishing in civil-service purgatory (we started attending a new Baptist church and they are big on Purgatory allegories) and then again as I sipped a nice, oakey glass of chardonnay after putting the kids to bed last night (Brand: Pine and Post) What I came up with is that, lacking direction ourselves, but knowing we must follow someone else’s direction, even the most intelligent among us becomes an unthinking automaton slave to the will of the person with the most powerful cattle prod.
Take yesterday for example, literally hundreds of normal, intelligent people from around Atlanta converged downtown on the courthouse steps for Jury Duty. There were no signs telling people what to do; there was just a roped off path and a guy with an x-ray machine. Having done this once already, I knew to get in line, but most others just loitered around as if they had no clue that they would have to pass through the screening area before going to the jury pool holding pen. It took a fairly serious looking security guard just about yelling at the masses to poke them along. This continued even as people got off the elevator and checked in with the clerk and even as names were called to report to various courtrooms.
What happens to free-thinkers and movers and shakers in these situations that causes them (us?) to dumb down to the lowest common denominator; in this case, your classic trailor park hurricane victim wearing a scary hoody like the one Billy Mahoney wore in Flatliners, and dragging a beat up, dirty cooler full of Lord only knows what! (I kid you not, when they finally dismissed us, she woke up and promptly announced in a toothless, loud voice, “That wuz the most boring day evar!”)
So, I make an extra effort to be different. I try to find another way down the seven floors when everyone else is standing there all doe-eyed waiting to cram on the elevator. I’ll walk a little further if it means that maybe I’ll catch a faster bus back to the parking lot. I’ll even go sit away from the crowds over there in the nice chairs in the off chance that people will assume I belong there and not make me move.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been told to move from my nice chair, or how many times my shortcut turned into a dead end, or even how often I’ve howled when everyone else was mooing and gotten in trouble for it, but you know what? I tried. It may not ever always work out the way I want, but maybe when I die, lacking anything else poignant to put on my tombstone, they can instead inscribe:
He didn’t Moo!
Only about six of you will get it, but I’m OK with that. It just means that you at least understood my point.