45 tagged with #interactions

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Bottlenecks


It's rare to see any of the workmen take the stairs; even when they're empty-handed, they'll take the elevator down one floor no matter how long they have to wait. I was surprised, then, to walk past an electrician who stood in front of the elevator doors for no more than two seconds before rolling his eyes and walking towards the stairwell.

I carried a load of packages and walked slowly behind him, not even pausing to see what the elevator wait might be. He looked over his shoulder once he heard my footfalls on the stairs.

"You need a hand with those?"

"Nah, I got it. But thanks."

He outstripped me fairly quickly, and I still can't get over the novelty of it.

---

Years ago, after one of the summer floods, we hired movers to bring all of the equipment out of the area so the labs could get rebuilt. I found a bottleneck at the elevator, where a line of enlargers had to wait to get sent upstairs. There was one mover standing at the elevator, not moving anything.

"What's up?" I asked him, while trying not to tap my foot too visibly. I wanted to keep the operation on a tight schedule, since I knew that the sooner we cleared out the equipment, the sooner we'd start reconstruction.

"I need to wait for my supervisor. These might be more than fifty pounds and I don't want to touch them."

"Oh. Well, I'm not under any weight restrictions," I said, before shoving four of them into the elevator and sending them upstairs. Since there wasn't room in the elevator for me, I sprinted up the stairwell and caught them as they reached the first floor.

This went on through the entire week of moving, that I would find places where movers twice my size would decide against moving something, and I'd move things myself rather than wait for the entire crew to rearrange itself. Partway through the week, I was scolded by the movers for taking away their work, that I was acting disrespectful to their jobs, and violating their safety regulations.

We finished the moving phase before their complaints got very far.

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25 February 2014 13:07


Practical Responses


The reading included an anecdote illustrating how the differences between ethnic groups in Xinjiang are often not immediately visible, despite attempts to maintain clear ideological boundaries. As the story went, children at play accidentally kicked a ball into the street, and called to a passing student, "Hey Han, would you get the ball?" but the student simply responded with "I am a Tungan," and moved on.1

At this point, the professor called attention to the anecdote, attempting to elicit an explanation from the class. There came an expected chorus of mumbled about indistinct features separating each group, a morality tale about not making assumptions about a stranger's backgrounds, maintained ethnic pride, until I pointed out that the Tungans are Muslim, therefore the Tungan child was unlikely to touch a ball that might have been an inflated pig's bladder.

When living in an environment of celebrated integration, it becomes easy to forget that separations of groups exist as more than just names.


1. Rudelson, Justin; Oasis Identities

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24 February 2014 19:06


Safety First


"Looking pretty good up there," I say to the builder, who is sitting on the roof of the garage when I pull in.

"Almost," he mumbles, shaking his head. "Almost."

I feel bad that he has to work on the house through the winter, but not that bad; his inability to manage a project timeline was what led him to sitting on an icy half-built deck with power cables snaking around icicles.

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20 February 2014 18:08


Twenty-Seven


At night I listen to the howling winds while refreshing the weather forecast for the morning. Some days, I don't want to be spoiled for what the dawn will bring me, but often I feel the need to be prepared.

My new rule is that days which I fail to arrive on time are not allowed to be erased from my calendar; the little numbers written on a corner of my whiteboard must remain, more or less indefinitely, as a haunting reminder of my bad morning habits. Somehow, there is no negative reinforcement strong enough to motivate me to arrive at the time I plan when I have no actual obligations beyond keeping my word to myself.

The snores of the downstairs neighborhood reverberate impressively into my room; once, he knocked on my door at 11:30 because the basement laundry machine I started had woken him up.

The world is a layer of slush ponding rainwater and snowmelt, and I manipulate the flow of traffic around me to minimize the amount of splashback I get from cars that pass inappropriately. Subtle shifts in lane position and velocity, and a well-timed peek over my shoulder keeps the cars in their place, and I am the shepherd dog racing through stampeding sheep.

Today is a good day to be. Today is a good day to look up and see the occasional patch of blue, to get coated from the waist down with salt and sand. Today is good.

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18 February 2014 11:56


Tread Carefully, Again


"Excuse me, did you see me here?" I asked after pounding on the driver's window.

The driver was a man in his 30s, wearing glasses and a big hat, and there were young children in his car. The small sedan had backed out of the driveway at me, where I was waiting for the light to turn to my favor. I heard the sound of gears grinding into place and looked over my shoulder just in time to see the trunk-mounted bike rack, metal prongs sticking out of the little car, rushing towards me. My feet had enough traction in the slush for me to scramble backwards while the car swung around past me.

I only needed to lean forward slightly to reach the window as the he changed gears into forward drive. He looked up at me with an expression of horror that he somehow completely missed seeing a figure in a bright chartreuse jacket and orange ski goggles under broad daylight when it was no longer snowing. All I heard was my own panting breath and his idle engine when he quickly shook his head and slammed on the accelerator to get away from me.

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16 February 2014 17:35


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