I was waiting downtown in theÂ hospital recently. It wasn’t the emergency section of the hospital, it was the place where people needed to see a doctor for things that weren’t life threatening. I was holding a number, one of those numbers that you grab like when you go to the post office. There was a big electronic board up and it showed the numbers changing as people went into the office.Â The peculiar thing was that the numbersÂ weren’t really changing according to how many people went into the room where theÂ doctor was. It didn’t take me long to figure outÂ that people were just crowding their way in, instead of patiently waiting for their numbers to be called. I wanted to speak up, but for some reason I didn’t. Maybe because I was sick, or maybe because I was new in town and didn’t reallyÂ know anybody there.
It reminded me onceÂ when I was in first grade. I used to be really shy.Â Once I had to go toÂ the bathroom really bad. Back in first grade, you were always supposed to do what the teachers said. It wasn’t recess, so I wasÂ afraid I’dÂ get in trouble if I askedÂ to go to the bathroom. So I sat there withÂ my hand on my crotch, I don’t even know ifÂ I knew when recess came. IÂ was just a kid, I hadn’t realizedÂ that theÂ most general rule in life yet.
It’s interesting when you look at some kids. They just scream out whenever they want something.Â They haven’t learned to be shy when asking for what they want. i was studyingÂ a book on persuasion, and it said the mostÂ natural persuaders and manipulators there are little kids. They scream and people ten times theirÂ own size scramble toÂ take care ofÂ them. It’s like if you are a little kid, youÂ when you want something, you just ask for it.Â You don’t wait for permission. When you are hungry, you scream for food. When you want something, you don’t rest untilÂ you get it. And when you are a kid, the only rule in life is keep screaming until you get what you want.
Finally the teacher saw me and told me to go to the bathroom.Â When I came back, she told me that it’s ok to ask for things that you want, it’s okÂ to ask somebody in authority to let you do something.Â Because if you wait until they notice you need something, it might be too late. I thoughtÂ that was a particularly nice lesson for a first grade teacher to teach aÂ little kid.
So finallyÂ I stood, and walked over to the door. I noticed the peopleÂ sitting next to the door, and I askedÂ them in a fairly loudÂ voice if thereÂ was some kind of line, orÂ do you just push your way in. And maybe it was because I was a little impatient, but I said it loud enough so that most people heard me. AndÂ after I said it, I noticedÂ that people started looking at their own numbers and obeying the rules. As it turns out, the nurseÂ that was supposed to be taking care of the number system had a last minute emergency, andÂ wasn’t able to come in until later. I’mÂ glad I spoke up whenÂ I did, I might have been waiting there all day.