How old people made me challenge the status quo

Why are we so willing to accept the status quo?

Time for a little background:

At work, we are technically a hot desking office. We have to be – there are ten people and only eight computers, so we rotate tasks between us. Practically, however, there are three of us who always tend to use the same computers. The boss has hers and has to use that computer because certain things she requires on the network are only permitted on that workstation. Others of us have gravitated toward tasks that also require certain workstations, meaning that a good 90% of the time, both the Superhero and myself can be found on particular computers.

I like my computer. It’s in the corner, so I get a view out of two windows and a nice breeze when it’s stuffy. It’s next to the phone, so I have to answer that, but I don’t mind doing that because it serves as a change from the never ending data entry and scanning. I’ve got my little domain all set up how I like it, and have more or less trained everyone to stop nicking my pens. (I have a tendency to nest. I doubt I’m the only one – I challenge you to spend 9 hours a day, 5 days a week in one spot, and not get the teensiest bit territorial).

There was one wasp on the honeypot though – my computer was adamant that my mouse, though in reality brand new mouse with a scroll wheel, only had two buttons. You don’t realise how much you use the scroll wheel till you no longer have one. Anyway, I’d gotten used to not using it. Sure, it took a bit longer to keep lunging for the scroll bars, but you learn to live with these things, right?

Until this morning that is. I don’t know what made me, but finally I snapped, and I called IT. The nice man on the other end of the phone took over my PC, and I watched as he spent a good ten minutes rummaging through obscure settings, before he finally bullied my computer into accepting that yes, I did have a scroll wheel. Restart the computer, and… bliss! Absolute bliss.

Which made me think, why did I wait so bloody long?

With regards the mouse, I’ve been using this computer since late Feb/early March. Every single extra mouse action I have to make moves me one step closer to an RSI flare up. Every single mouse action I can remove from the workflow speeds things up fractionally. The extra 30 milliseconds it takes to move a window up/down using the scroll bar doesn’t sound like much, but multiply it by around 500 events, and you have a significant amount of time that could be sliced from my day. Quicker inputting means we get to our target that little bit quicker, and getting to our target quicker means fewer OAPs baying for my blood on the phone. That, and I’d have a happy boss, and we all know happy bosses are good news.

I was thinking in broader terms however, whilst drinking a cup of tea and staring out at the view over the train station to the docks (I said I had a view, not that it was a good view), about our tendency to just “go with the flow”. Most people will accept a situation, deal with it, and pretty soon forget it was ever a “situation” to being with. Awkward quickly becomes normal, and even if they think “oh, things could be better”, it invariably takes too much effort for them to make that change.

The impetus to change can be some tiny thing – the proverbial pebble rolling down the mountain that causes a landslip that buries a whole town – and frequently when you look back you think “why didn’t I make that change sooner?” That isn’t to say that change isn’t without risk and sacrifice. In my case I had to sacrifice fifteen minutes of my morning, time that could have been spent scanning ten or so images, but I have more than made up for that sacrifice. It was a small thing that Rosa Parks did, staying seated on that bus, and the sacrifice that followed was huge for many people, but at the end of the day we look back and wonder how people lived for so long with segregation. No, I am not equating my getting the middle button on my mouse back with the American civil liberties movement. I am using the two ends of the scale to show it’s not just the little things we get accustomed to.

It certainly takes a special kind of person to see that the way things are is not the way things should be, and to have the personal strength to bust out of convention and tradition. The people who can, why, they are the inventors and the leaders of our world. The movers and shakers.

As I reached the end of my cup of tea, I started to think in narrower terms about what else there is in my life that I am taking for granted. What situations am I just putting up with because it takes too much effort to do something different? Where would I benefit from challenging the status quo?

So thank you, pensioners of Southampton: without you I wouldn’t appreciate the middle mouse button as much as I now do, and without you I wouldn’t be (once again) lying in bed unable to sleep whilst I reassess my life. Well, I did say change is never easy. Hopefully in a few years time I’ll be able to look back as say “yes, it was all worth a few nights of insomnia”.

Oh, the things you think about whilst doing data entry…

9 thoughts on “How old people made me challenge the status quo

  1. Great Post Cas!

    I think I will make looking for things that I am accepting as Status Quo my thought experiment for the day.

    I am not sure I could have lived without at least one scroll wheel. I have two on the computer at work. One on the mouse and one on the keyboard and they make life so much better. Of course I brought in my own keyboard from home to get that but it was well worth it!

  2. Wow –
    This article kicked off a big old mindstorm for me.
    I know one of the things I am accepting as the status quo. I need a Dual Monitor setup for my computer at work and at home! I was just trying to arrange my screen so that I could view multiple applications and wham there was my first “Need to change the status quo” item.
    I know it sounds greedy but it would make my work a lot easier.
    Thanks Cas!

  3. With respect the dual monitor setup, there was a piece in the NYT only the other day about how having two screens improved productivity by 30%. I certainly know I wouldn’t want to be without my second screen at home now. Then again, I do only have the 12″ PowerBook, so it’s kind of essential!

    I’m glad that the old people and myself could help you Dewayne. It’s always nice to hear that the random thoughts I have are appreciated.

  4. Oooh!
    Who cares about OT when I get to hear that CoCo is getting even better? (I actually had already heard via RSS but it’s nice to have it shouted out on the blog as well :D)

    And look, it works! (Trust me on this, it’s working) Which is nice, because the Greasemonkey script had taken an irrational dislike to Bright Meadow this past week. Bit of a bummer when you can’t easily track the comments you make on your own blog.

    Now though – shiny, happy, coCommenting goodness. If you haven’t already got coCo, then do so. Very useful.

  5. I never understood how the Greasemonkey script worked, being a non-computer expert. Still, I seem to persist, still being the only nutter there with over 1,000 comments … and adding my Bright Meadow conversations in there the old-fashioned way, for accuracy …

  6. I never understood the greasemonkey script either, but it more or less did its job.
    The extension though – I’ve been using it for the past 24 hours and it seems to be working wonderfully well. Even let me add Flickr comments which were tricky before.

    I would recommend it if you have Firefox.

  7. Ah, I am one of those people who find Firefox very off-putting. I design (or have designed) typefaces, and am a little too much of a purist for it! But that is another story that will take the thread quite OT … Still, it is good to know that coCo has spread its influence further as I strongly believe in the service’s usefulness myself.

  8. Considering my entire life is pretty much OT, feel free to share. Out of curiosity, what do you use if you don’t use FF? I have issues with it myself, but find myself addicted to the plugins – there is no way I could live without my spell check, or the added tab options – and its sheer customizability.

    I do find myself forgetting that the majority of the world doesn’t use FF though, which reminds me that I really have to get around to fixing how comments display in IE, as they look horrendous when I check the blog at work.

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