Every morning in my neighbourhood there is a small window of time when traffic becomes chaotic, slow, painful and frustrating. It’s called the school run. Around here, many kids are taken to school by car, by their parents, adding that traffic to the one of public transport, and school buses for the non-motorized kids. The situation is as predictable as night and day.
The streets in this area are quite typical of an English town: narrow, busy, occupied by tired looking cars tightly parked and hardly suitable for two-way traffic. The English have mastered a silent negotiation of street space with an unwritten driving code of eye contact, followed by the raising of a finger (which means thanks, there are several other types) to decide who goes first. Very civilised but still chaotic. This slow motion is part of the daily morning routine.
At the same time, in the middle of this infuriating and impossible traffic, the local municipal council decides to send the bin lorries out (or garbage trucks, or dustbin lorries, or waste collection vehicles if you want to be more sophisticated). The traffic then transforms itself into a funerary procession with dozens of cars unable to overtake and in slow crawling mode behind that very systematic collection of multi-coloured bins by men in orange or yellow suits.
Why then? Why at that time of the day? Well, it’s a stupid question. They are just doing their jobs, so they need to be respected. It is what it is. The dustmen are doing their jobs, the municipal council is doing its job and the planners of such a clever strategy are doing their jobs. And that is the problem. Doing your job blinds you completely to other jobs, other problems and other people. Even life.
The unpleasant officer at Security in the airport, is just doing her job. The nasty manager having a go at the employee, is just doing his job. The senior leader restructuring on the spot with no warning, no prisoners, is just doing her job. The reader of a script in a call centre asking you impossible questions, is just doing his job. The assistant pharmacist (in the UK) asking what other medicines you are taking when buying that medicine, even if she has no clue about the implications of any answer, is just doing her job.
Have you noticed how many people around you are just doing their jobs, and, implicitly, they are asking you for your acceptance, compliance, obedience, silence, forgiveness and even consideration for their hard work? Have you noticed that most people who are not helpful to you are just doing their job?
I am scared of people just doing their jobs. They usually have no consideration for my job, or your job, or the sum of all jobs. It’s impossible to do a good job if you just do your job.
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