Situation at a parking meter machine
Everyday situations bring some fascination about the human condition.
- I’ve done my shopping and return to a multi-storey car park.
- There is small bay where you go – on foot – to pay for the time that your car spent parked.
- There are two machines. One large, the other small and thin.
- I see keypads below a slot – on each. This suggests that one may pay by using a credit card of some kind.
- I’m in a single queue for both machines, with one person ahead of me.
- So it’s my turn. I stick ticket in the right place on the larger of the machines. Then the machine asks me to stick my credit card in.
- I stick my credit card in the slot and after 20 seconds there is no response from the machine. Well now you’re wondering if I stuck the card in the right way. Hello – I wasn’t born this morning! Get a grip. Yes – and I know ‘you’re just asking’.
- So I pull my card back out of the slot in the machine.
- I hear a male voice from behind me saying “That machine cannot take cards!”
- I turn around to see a male of about 5’ 6” tall – waving hands and re-stating the above.
- Me: “It’s told me to insert a card and I did so.”
- Me: I point to a slot and a keypad.
- Me: “This means this machine is equipped to take credit cards”.
- Male: “It doesn’t work try the other machine”.
- Me: “No – I’m doing what the machine says.”
- Me: I repeat the said steps, then stick my card in the slot. This time the machine recognises that a card had been stuck into it.
- Me turning to cocksure male: “See? It’s asking me for a PIN number.”
- Male: “Well, enter your pin then.”
- Me: “Sure – I’ll enter a PIN into a machine that doesn’t take cards.”
- Male: Silence
- Me: “See? It’s done it’s job. A machine that doesn’t take cards has taken cards!” I walk off not waiting for or noticing any further response.
What do I make of the above? First of all let’s ensure that you know that you’re weren’t there – and I’m 99.9% certain about that. Therefore my observations and inferences rank above yours. Why? Because I was the main witness to the above situation and it’s context – you weren’t. I am in the business of observing human behaviour on a regular professional basis.
You might reason on what you pick up and what is stuck in your head. However, I know better than you what took place above. I can see it in my minds eye – as it happened. You cannot. You are restricted to imagining what happened – but that is not a true representation of the facts. The sounds and images that remain in my head are reasonably a better representation of what happened above.
I’m also mindful that any text I could write above is quite limited in conveying the fullness of what transpired. So, you couldn’t for example appreciate any body language from Male (above). You have no access to the tone of voice or the manner in which the Male said what he said.
So – I conclude that:
- Male was moving quickly or felt a need to do so.
- Male did not observe carefully, the machine I was at.
- Male chose to open his trap before taking the time to observe.
- Having been shown the keypad and slot, male makes a wild assertion that the machine is not working to take cards. This is to justify his orginal assertion that the machine is not functional with cards.
- A single failure of a machine does not mean that it has lost its capacity to do what it was designed to do. Should we also treat humans like that?
- Male attempts to be a smartass by going “Well enter your pin then.” – as if to imply that I’m not capable, or that I’m holding up a queue of people.
- Male was impatient and stupid.
Why is all this important? I think it is important because I often see it – where people who are impatient fail to make careful observations and rush for quick fix solutions or responses. The use of cognitive skills – if they existed – seems to be largely suspended when people become anxious, hasty or impatient.
Had I simply changed machines, I would have done so by the influence of his conduct – and without a sound logical basis. I’m delighted I slowed down a few microseconds, to reason that the male (idiot) was wrong – as was proved. But it’s not just about proving one person wrong. I have better things to do.
I’m something of an anthropologist – surely not an official one. I confront these situaitons to discover what I can. I write all this because I need to document my observations of ‘the humans’.
– and I am in the business of observing human behaviour on a regular professional basis