Thursday, January 24, 2008

Warning — This post may be redundant!

I have many pet peeves.. One of the more irritating one is related to people doing redundant things.. Do note that there's a difference between repetition as a form of exercise and plain ignorance, which stems from the unwillingness to think..
Since young, I've noticed people pressing lift and traffic light buttons redundantly.. Among this group of redundant people, they can be further sub-divided into a few groups — one, two, three.. (this reminds me of a funny incident which I shall blog about later).. There are many variations between these group of people, namely, the different non-conflicting combinations of:
  • pressing the button when there's explicit sign(s) of the button having been pressed: lighting confirmation, seeing in person the button being pressed etc..
    • I sometimes find this very rude as if the person's not acknowledging the button presser's existence/effort..
  • pressing the button when there's implicit sign(s) of the button having been pressed: someone waiting for the lift/traffic light and standing reasonably close to the button..
    • slightly more forgivable than the above.. after all, it's just to play safe..
    • sometimes people understand the logic in the below point, hence they choose not to press the button..
  • pressing the button when it's a given (or highly likely, just to pre-empt the possibility of failure) that the event which you wish to evoke is guaranteed and its happening time is independent of pressing the button: a HDB lift that only stops at the 1, 6, 11 level is on the way down from either 6 or 11 level.. you're waiting at the ground floor level.. it's almost guaranteed that the lift will go all the way down as most people don't take the lift from the 6 to 11, so there's no need to press the lift button.. having lived in my flat for close to 20 years, I would hazard a guess that at least 99% of the lift trips are from 1 to 6/11 or from 6/11 to 1, instead of between 6 and 11..

So last week I was at the forum waiting for the lift to take me to the fourth level.. so basically this single lift services only the first and fourth levels, and at that time there were many people waiting to take the lift for both directions.. so I missed a turn and as the lift was on it's way up, some guy pressed the lift button.. I almost fainted from the sheer stupidity and redundancy of that brainless act.. needless to say, the lift went back down with a liftfull of people, indicating that regardless of whether or not that guy pressed the button, the lift will come down (given) and the speed will not be compromised (event independence)..

So why do people still do such things???

Habit.. habits can be useful.. they allow you to operate on auto-pilot, freeing your mind for the more important things.. good habits include but are not limited to: switching off the lights when you leave a room, flushing the toilet after use, washing your hands before and after your meals.. But when a habit makes you do something irrational or redundant (let's not consider whether the cost is negligible or not as that's not the point I want to make here..), it's time to rethink whether that particular event should be institutionalized as a habit, as a conditional habit, or to be treated as a unique event each time (I am current of the belief that most things should and can be classified to free our minds)..

Flashback to circa 2003, it was the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) period and I was a student.. Everyone was given a digital thermometer to log our temperatures twice a day whenever a lullaby was played over the public address; once in the morning during assembly and another in noon.. So we were in the midst of our physics tutorial when the lullaby was played.. almost everyone took out the thermometers and popped it into ours mouths.. Later, our physics teacher told us a story about conditioning and Pavlov's dogs which salivate whenever it heard the ringing of a bell.. It was at this moment when I got inspired not to do things without giving much thought..

Of course there are also psychological reasons as to why people press the button.. sometimes they're in a hurry and pressing the button repeatedly is like some sort of nerve-calming exercise (or could it be the reverse? haha).. Sometimes I wonder if this people know that pressing a lift or traffic light button repeatedly will not hasten the event change.. I believe that most educated people are able to observe how the black box works through empirical observation and conclude correctly.. Perhaps some people hail from a land where the more you press the button, the faster the traffic light will turn green.. hey, that's an idea.. I'm gonna patent it..

And of course there're other reasons too..

So last Thursday after my haircut I bought a cheese waffle after a lovely girl who bought a peanut butter waffle.. Above the waffle machines was a printout that read, "Always put on gloves before handling the waffles", presumably for hygiene reasons.. So the lady who made the waffle put on the gloves as instructed.. But she collected my money with the gloves still on, making me wonder what's the difference between wearing a glove or not in the first place for her case.. So my moral of this story is: always think about the reason for doing something in a particular way.. you may just think of it once for the initial time (avoid redundancy, no need to keep thinking if it's always going to be the same.. remember?)..

Anyway the shop assistant thought that we ordered together as when the girl repeated her order she could not be heard and I helped to relay the message, and bagged our waffles in the same plastic bag.. *(act) shy* Hm.. and I said something like bag seperately.. we ordered seperately.. I don't know her.. ouch.. sounds like I'm trying desperately to disassociate from her.. that's me for you.. :( And I felt ripped off as there was so little cheese..

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