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Locked Into a Routine


A friend of mine, a salaryman, who was visiting my workroom the other day commented on one aspect of my life-style, "You are quite fortunate in being able to work at your own pace. You are not 'caught in a rut' like me, taking the same train at the same time, following exactly the same routine every day."

I listened to what he had to say, but then, remembering a little episode that had happened just that very morning, wondered if I was really as 'free' as he thought ...

As usual, I had gone to the local pool for my daily swim, as usual, getting there just a couple of minutes before the building opened. As usual, I chatted a bit with the same people who are there every day, and then just as usual, bought my ticket and headed into the locker room. But there, the 'just as usual' sequence came to an end. Instead of ... 'just as usual, I opened locker #0107 and put my clothes inside ...', I found that one of the staff members was using #0107, and I had to cross the room and use a different one.

Now of course, all these lockers are exactly alike, and it doesn't make any difference at all which one I choose. Why then, did I feel a burst of irritation to find that my daily routine wasn't running 'just as usual'?

Unlike my salaryman friend, who really has no choice but to take the same train each day, etc. etc., I am quite free to choose a different locker ... or arrive at the pool at a different time ... or vary my behaviour in any number of ways, if I so wish. But I don't. Even with such freedom available to me, I still find myself following a 'rut' just as deep as that in which my friend is travelling. So deep that just a simple thing as finding that locker #0107 was in use, was an irritant!

Are we humans so dependent on familiarity ... on stability, that even when we are free to alter our patterns continuously, we avoid doing so, but instead choose to stay with the familiar and safe? Or is it just that I am such a boring, unadventurous person? Perhaps I'd better not probe too deeply into this. I might not like to hear the answer to that question ...

I thought about these things the next time I approached the pool again. The locker room was empty. Can you guess ... did I use locker #0107 ... or did I choose another one?

I'm not going to tell you!