Rules and Regulations
And real estate are things I’ve left behind
Mandalay Again, lyrics by B. Taupin
2010 Mercury Records Ltd.
The other day I was sitting in the waiting room of my therapist’s office. The receptionist was at lunch, so there was a sign telling patients to check in at the main office. My therapist is located in one building that is part of a complex of medical office buildings. The main office is around the corner.
I don’t walk to the main office to check in. My therapist checks me in on her laptop during our appointment. I am not trying to be difficult, but something irks me about having to go to another office to check in. They are understaffed so I have to walk in the rain? Not that I don’t need the exercise. It’s the principle of the thing. It’s a dumb rule.
Anyway, another patient came in and read the sign. Then he asked me if we had to do it.
I told him what I did instead.
He stood there for a few seconds trying to decide what to do. Then he walked out, presumably to go check in.
Rule follower, I thought.
Then the other day I took the train back from D.C. I had just emerged from a meeting with five lobbyists during which we discussed the implications of lifting the Cuban embargo. If you’ve ever watched Alpha House on Amazon, you’ll get a sense of how the meeting went, except that it wasn’t funny. The lobbyists talked at length about which Congressmen should be approached and when and how should we “shop” our proposal. Heavy stuff. I needed a couple of bottles of 5 Hour Energy to get through the meeting. Too bad I didn’t have any.
It was exhausting trying to look like I knew what they were talking about for five hours. And of course I had to add something to the conversation. While the others talked, I Googled the acronyms they were throwing around to figure out what they were saying. By the time I left the meeting, I was bushed.
I had ridden the train up that morning with my boss, who likes to talk. A lot. So on the way home (he stayed in D.C.) I needed peace and quiet. Although I had a business class seat, I decided to sit in the “Quiet Car” instead.
Except that it wasn’t quiet. While the passengers boarded, the woman sitting across the aisle made several phone calls. One of her calls was obviously to an older person, because she talked loudly on that call, repeating herself several times. It was like talking to my own mother. Apparently the person on the other end had fallen and stayed in the hospital and now needed physical therapy, and some medication that he or she could not afford so the lady was giving advice as to how to get free medicine and free physical therapy, on and on. Then she called her bank and was giving responses to what was obviously a computer in a loud voice: “Checking account.” “Check balance.”
I sat there waiting. I was going to give her until the train left the station. The car is called the Quiet Car for a reason. Passengers are supposed to be quiet. That’s the rule. I wondered how to enforce the rule. Should I approach her myself? Should I get the conductor? Should I move to the business class car?
Fortunately she got off the phone before we left the station and promptly fell asleep. Problem solved.
I’m a rule follower — most of the time. I’ll stop at a red light at two in the morning at a deserted intersection. If the light is red, I stop. That’s the rule.
That got me to thinking that there is a continuum of rule breaking. It’s not a slippery slope. Just because a person breaks a rule or two, it doesn’t mean that person is going to become another Jeffrey Dahmer.
I think we are all that way basically. Some rules we follow and some we don’t.
And each one of us chooses different rules to follow or to ignore. The man in the doctor’s office may not stop at red lights in the middle of the night. That may be one of the rules that he doesn’t follow.
I think that for most of us, it depends on whether we agree with the rule and think it is necessary or fair. I like to think of it as civil disobedience on a micro level.
What are some rules that you choose not to follow? Please put your answer in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you!