Thinking of Others or Mindfulness.

(Sub Title: Just Another Rant)

Disclaimer. Having already outlived the time allocated to me under Biblical rules I hereby claim the right to wander from the point and to display spells of incoherence. Truth to tell, as the kernel of this particular outburst began to develop other tangential thoughts emerged that have compelled me to include a few words on today’s visit to the Doctor, Doctors in general and Mindfulness.

Doctor, Doctors and Mindfulness.

I have absolutely no idea what Mindfulness means and, as a follower of the acclaimed Sir Richard Branson approach to education, I am far too lazy to research the matter and simply guess that it might mean thinking of others; that is a handy, if indolent, assumption to make since the latter reflects my original thought for the title of this outburst. Credit for this initial digression from my real purpose is due to BBC Radio 4 Thought for the Day which took to the air as I drove to the surgery; the moral component of that mini-sermon was Mindfulness. The man of religion further let slip that he is a Mindfulness Consultant which spawned two thoughts in my mind. First, that sounds a nice little earner. Second, if I make a real fist of this piece someone might pay me to offer advice on Mindfulness. (I enjoy Thought For The Day on the somewhat malicious grounds that John Humphrys thinks it should be terminated).

Back to the Doctor…..on entering the Surgery it could be observed that half the corridor had been cordoned-off with large cones saying “MEN AT WORK” within which a mop was being vigorously operated by a lady operative (the PC word I believe) who seemed oblivious to the outrageously sexist nature of the signs! However, such a careless attribution is some distance from this week’s Thomas The Tank Engine event at which a train buff was accused of offensively impersonating a member of Staff by wearing a Fat Controller costume. The Staff instructed the luckless man, who suffers from learning difficulties, to remove his costume and sit well away from other visitors. It is surely time for all of us to behave more sensitively to others – how dare someone inadvertently take the piss! Society needs to wake up and follow the sensitive example of Woman’s Hour which, recognising that ‘Actress’ is no longer an acceptable job description, has elected to refer to such a performer as a ‘Female Actor’. After all why use one word when two will do and the more words we use the greater the consultancy opportunities – the consultant who told me that ‘intestinal fortitude’ really means ‘guts’ certainly earned his bread.

In the event, the MEN AT WORK claim flaunted the Trade Description Act since all the staff – both medical and administrative are female and, incidentally, all the better for that. Thinking on Doctors in this early morning bubble of reverie, my mind digressed to the profession’s impact on my life and, to my surprise, recalled not only the first Doctor who ever treated me (excluding the birth one when I did not have a speaking role) – Doctor Matthews aged 89 years but also all the other civilian ones since. As for the military I remember only two. The first, whose party trick was to offer intravenous injections of Benedictine on dinner nights and the other who confirmed his amateur military status by reporting for a WASH-UP at a Helicopter LS wearing a towel and flip flops and carrying a bar of soap. The 25 mile ride to the General’s Debriefing (another of ‘those’ words!) in a Belvedere proved to be the only time any of us ever saw Doctor Brian embarrassed.


Enough digression – now is the time to turn to some manufactured passion on mindfulness. All the following questions came to mind during a supermarket shopping trip (Waitrose of course where for every £10 spent a free newspaper is offered, a saving of £14+ pw – pensioners have to think on such matters). Many of the topics relate to thoughtlessness that results in wasting other people’s time.

Supermarket Checkout. It is almost inevitable that a shopper will queue at the checkout. During that waiting time why is it beyond the wit of most shoppers to optimise that time by getting the Credit and Store Cards out of their wallet or Pickfords (aka Handbag)? But no….instead we are treated to a long delay while the punter fumbles around the Pickfords invariably resulting in the production of the wrong cards.

Trolley Protocol. Why do shoppers come along side the display shelves like an RFA vessel undertaking a RAS operation thereby denying access to a raft of items that others wish to purchase? Why not park the trolley away from the displays? Wake up Waitrose has wide aisles.

Food Conferences. Access to the cold fish counter was blocked for several minutes while a family exchanged menu ideas for cold Mackerel. Is it not possible to confer a few feet back from the display?

Car Park Manners – Part 1. The supermarket car park has a clearly delineated circuit which is roundly ignored by those who take a contra-flow short cut in order to secure a rare parking space thereby trumping any law abiding driver who is assiduously completing the legal circuit. When I once remonstrated with a Lady driver for driving the wrong way round the circuit and pointed out that a pedestrian with a pram might be looking the other way when crossing, she simply replied: “Get a life” before driving off at high speed. Why do people behave like that?

Car Park Manners – Part 2. With car parking space at a premium why is it a popular post shopping activity to unwind with a cigarette and a chat? Get out of it please. Think of others.

So much for the Post Exercise Report (PXR) on the supermarket, it is time to move on to garages which in many ways offer a similar lack of mindfulness as the supermarket. Many garages have mini-marts; indeed some folk seem to undertake their weekly shop therein. Why is it that after filling their vehicle many customers then embark on that weekly shop apparently oblivious to the lengthening pump queue. Why not either do the shop first or park the vehicle away from the pumps?

Talk of garages leads naturally on to the issue of driving which offers rich pickings for thoughts on mindfulness if only because everybody is in such a blinding rush

Cut Out. Why is it that so many drivers cut out in front of oncoming traffic and then dawdle along at 25-30 mph? If someone cuts in front of me I am content as long as he/she moves on at a decent pace. While on the question of speed why do so many drivers dribble along at 30 mph on a speed unlimited road before accelerating to exceed the speed limit when entering the speed limited Zone? The question might also be asked: Why drive at 25 mph in a 40 mph zone? Zone speeds should be the mandatory minimum speed.

Indicating. Why indicate when going round a bend? This is a confusing and, therefore, a dangerous practice.

Tail Gates. Why do car manufacturers compete for ever more exotic tail gates? Some displays wrap all around the rear of the car which makes for a dazzling drive for the vehicle behind.

Daylight Headlights. Today – a bright sunny one of maximum visibility – a Chelsea Tractor tailgated me for four miles on a narrow Surrey lane as I was en route to make my contribution to an already deeply overloaded alleged A Road. Since my small car is lower in the water than such Tractors there was no escape from blazing lights – particularly via my wing mirrors. In similar vein the most likely cause of a daylight accident on narrow roads is the instant flash of headlights as an oncoming vehicle crests a hill or shoots round a blind bend. Many believe energy is free but on many older vehicles using headlights increases fuel consumption by somewhere between 4 and 12%. So why drive in daylight with headlights on?

Lane Hopping. My generation can well recall the 13th Duke of Bedford being prosecuted for overtaking on the inside lane while driving on the Motorway. If a Peer can be prosecuted so can the rest of us! Overtaking on the inside and lane hopping in general are mindless dangerous acts that ultimately create traffic jams – for sure neither is mindfulness.

Car Ergonomics. Considering the design of many modern houses, I frequently wonder if architects actually live on another planet; by the same token it might surprise me to know that the designers of the interior of a car actually own or even drive a car. It took me a week to discover how to open the front windows of my latest vehicle acquisition – a 2001 Fiat Punto (pokey little number). After seven days of frustration I swallowed my pride by visiting a garage whose mechanic identified two window control buttons located in the middle of a busy dashboard. The buttons lie just above the four-way flasher control which, to the bemused irritation of other drivers, are inevitably activated more often than the windows are. Is this a lack of ergonomic mindfulness or simply thoughtlessness? Of course, unlike mindfulness, oldie words such as ‘thoughtlessness’ have an absolutely clear meaning and do not require any expensive translation intervention by a Consultant.

Lights at pedestrian crossings. It would be wrong, even unbalanced, to pick on motorists or their miscreant vehicles, after all, at some stage, most pedestrians end up in a car. Of course while in motoring mode drivers hate pedestrians and vice versa. A particular act of thoughtlessness or malevolence, perpetrated by certain walkers is needlessly to activate the pedestrian crossing lights when the road is absolutely bereft of traffic. Again are such acts thoughtlessness or mindlessness or, as just thrown into the mix, malevolence?

As this rant moves towards its conclusion (there may not be any conclusions however) please allow me to mention a final mindfulness category – namely General Irritants. In general there remain three running sores of mindlessness that continue to annoy me.

Hovering Shop Assistants. As a well below average Gunner who never grasped the principles of ballistics and a host of other technical matters associated with guns, I loathed being monitored by the Gunnery Staff whose presence made froze me into incoherence and inactivity. Hovering shop assistants have the same effect. Why is it that they hover in my space? Do they assume I am a thief? Laying aside the ‘sale commission’ factor, this is a peculiarly British disease. In America the assistant approaches, asks if you need help and if you say ‘no’ they move off with a friendly ‘Have a great day” which, counter-intuitively seems genuine to me. Hovering in my space is not mindfulness.

Rail Passengers. The seminal moment when our train service went off the rails (pun intended) was the day that a Management Consultant changed the nomenclature of rail users from ‘Passengers’ to ‘Customers’. Come off it – the core function is to move us from A to B not to sell me a decaying sausage roll from an aluminium trolley. Our railways have thoughtlessly abandoned their core function by use of the wrong word – you take money off a customer whereas you deliver a passenger – the railways now have the wrong mind-set.

Children in Pubs. Even now I can remember my first legal alcoholic drink; the year was 1960, the pub was the White Hart in Witley and the drink was a half pint of bitter. Before that rite of passage my pub activities had been: Confined to my parents’ car with a bottle of Tizer (refundable bottle which was a nice little earner) and a packet of Plain Smiths Crisps, there being no other flavour options. The point is surely that going to a pub should be seen as a rite of passage but in this modern age all the rites have been compressed into a single phalanx, lost without any trace of a lasting memory and merely an unrecognised bundle of other rites that are no longer a privilege but a right. Today in the Village Pub children are deployed quaffing Coca Cola while lounging on the prime site bar stools on which my parents sat all those years ago enjoying their own well deserved adult space. Children (not ‘Kids’) need and deserve boundaries and we owe them the opportunity to experience the indelible joys of rites of passage. The irony of all this that both parties have lost out; the young do not want to be with the grown-ups all the time and vice versa; in similar vein children do not hanker after a teacher being their friend. In the round is this really mindfulness?

Conclusions. This drivel cannot really be dignified by any attempt to draw meaningful conclusions – perhaps some passing thoughts might be a more attainable ambition. As this little vignette from a recent letter to a newspaper suggest that we do need to worry about the young:

Assistant: “What is leaf tea?” Customer: “For making Tea”. Assistant: “I see, you put the leaves in the tea bags yourself and then make the tea”.

It may also be concluded that my thoughts on mindfulness are not going to generate any Consultancy work partly because I am now not sure where the boundaries of thoughtlessness, not thinking of others, malevolence and selfishness lie. Adding to this miasma of uncertainty is the truth that I am so self-obsessed that any serious offerings on the concept of mindfulness would be an act of hypocrisy. Despite a recent medical survey extolling the virtues of optimism, I can however admit to being a pessimist on the grounds that things can only get better. Will they?

Juvenile Productions © Pending

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