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Are You Attacking or Blue-Tacking This Wet Aussie Summer?

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

Welcome to this article. I’m glad you’re here. These articles are about sustainability, philosophy, psychology, history, religion, evolution, etc. Most of it is ‘bigger picture’ stuff. For more ‘how-to’ content, subscribe to my fortnightly emails here.


[In this post, I am reflecting on an unusually wet Australian summer and what it means for educators and centre managers in early childhood centres. Then, a story follows to demonstrate that - I believe - humans are wired for short-termism and “blue-tacking” most problems. Can we learn to focus long term?]



Are You Attacking or Blue-Tacking This Wet Summer?


La Nina the mermaid has been splashing life into the eyes of many creatures on this brown dry continent.


Birds are singing … frogs are croaking … mozzies are making fly-screen sellers rich.


But not everyone is singing in the rain.

Some are rapping gangsta style, cursing the clouds.


Back in the day of working for a big early childhood (daycare) company, I remember that heavy rains were giving headaches to Centre managers.


And while children were tough-mudding in the yard, CMs were wiping their foreheads dry.

They knew what was coming - flooded yards and roof leaks.


What did they do?

  • They looked out the first window: Swim-between-the-flags up? Good.

  • They looked out the second window: Is the yard safe for sailing? Tick.

  • They looked out the front window: Enough space to moor cars? Great.

Then, they rolled up their sleeves and started logging jobs with facilities managers and helpdesks.

Jobs like: water leaking through the roof and into the cot room; flooded yard; water overflowing blocked gutters; flooded storeroom, bin room, or underground garage.


Whether the repair job got greenlighted or not depended on three factors:


1. How urgent it was safety-wise (e.g. water leaking through electricals)

2. How urgent it was otherwise (e.g. children having to stay inside)

3. How switched-on was the facilities manager


One more point. The CMs who were on good terms with their Ops or General managers got the job done right off the gumboot. But if you weren’t - unless you or the children faced imminent electrocution or drowning…


You were

Amber-lighted, red-lighted, or left in DARKNESS.


Here is what happened, in MOST cases…


If you were lucky, a handyman was sent to your centre to fix the problem.

He addressed the emergency by plugging the hole, unblocking the drain, or rain-proofing a wet corner (e.g. by stretching the tarp).


He attacked the problem. In most cases...


He blue-tacked the problem.


The next time the Mermaid swam by, the tarp was gone. The roof had holes again. And the drain was full of tanbark or sand, turning the yard into a dam.


I am human, you are human. Unless we’re in real and immediate danger - or really annoyed by the situation RIGHT NOW - we won’t lift the finger. (You're gonna love the upcoming story...)


If the water leaks to the electricals in the cot room, it’ll get fixed NOW. Other things will wait until April 2037.


Conversely, unless there is something functionally improving my life by providing a clear, concrete, compelling, and immediate benefit, I won’t lift the finger.


But...

Removing pain works better than providing benefits.


Don’t believe me? No worries, let’s flashback to October 21…


Jake told me a story about what he had to do to get his 90-year-old mum to wear a seat belt - for the first time in her life! Until her 90th, she never buckled up.


Why? Because his mum Sammy grew up in the 40s-50s when no one wore seatbelts (they weren’t even in cars). Then the 60s – a period of unbuckled bodies and minds - stormed in.


And when seatbelts snaked their way onto car seats on American, then Japanese assembly lines … and when buckling-up became mandatory in 1968…


Sammy said NO


She was almost clocking 40 on her life odometer; freedom, and liberation in the rear-view mirror. She won’t be forced into a straight jacked in her own car!


Sammy loved the new freedom and autonomy gained through the concentration pill. Her body was liberated by the pill, her mind by the 60s. She wasn’t going to become ‘Sammy in chains’.


To her, this wasn’t about safety


It was about repressive government, tying her up to her car seat. She swore never to be violated in this way.


While Jake was growing up, he loved her independence. But that wore off when he clocked 40 on his odometer. He kept worrying about his old, frail, unbuckled mum.


What if she hits a pole? What if a meth-headed truckie runs into her?


They had that conversation 1,460 times


He pleaded with her. He explained that a small accident would be the end of her. He gave her stats on car accidents. He loves her and doesn’t want to lose her. Are your grandkids gonna grow up without grandma, mum?


But Sammy wouldn’t budge. She UNDERSTOOD the seat belts (after all, it’s not biochemical engineering). It made logical sense. She even watched safe-driving videos of unbuckled figurines smashing through the front windows.


Nothing would change her mind. Why? Because she never had a car accident, and no one in her circle had one either. The problem was distant.


Then, on 12. June 21, everything changed


On that sunny summer morning, Jake pulled into mum’s driveway in a silver Corolla.

As he was putting Chrysanthemums in a vase, Sammy asked -

“Holy tadpoles, you got new wheels!?”


Jake gave her a birthday hug and the car keys.

Sammy was taken aback. After all, this wasn’t a knitting kit or gardening gloves.


She exclaimed - “Are you crazy Jake? What am I gonna do with a flashy car like that, what are the neighbours gonna say?”


Her old Ford still made it to the church, shops, to see grandkids or to visit two remaining friends.


“You are gonna love it, mum. It’s got Sammi Smith and Fleetwood Mac preloaded, you just press the button. And you won’t get cramps anymore, see how you just press the button to open the boot?” – Jake said.


“Oh, easily open the boot?” Sammy mumbled, holding the car keys.


But it wasn’t the boot Jake had on mind…


“Hey mum, can you give me a lift back home? We’ve got a little something for you at ours. And I want to see you driving your new car, wanna make sure you like it.” - Jake said.


“I need to trim the hedge…uhm…all right.” They got in, Sammy at the wheel.

Jake buckled up as his mum pulled into the quiet suburban road.


BEP BEP BEP BEEEP BEEEP BEEEEEEEEEEEP.


“Holy tadpoles! What’s THAT! Can you turn it off?” - cried Sammy, gripping the steering wheel.


Jake smiled in relief - the beeping beats her hearing aid!


“Seat belt mum, it’s the seat belt, put it on and the beeping will stop.”


“You know I HATE seatbelts Jake - can’t you turn it off? Pleeeease turn it off!”


“I can’t mum, it's built-in like that, you have to wear a seat belt, it’s the way it works.”


Sammy buckled up for the first time in her life - on her 90th birthday.


Why?


Because:

  • she had a pressing pain (beeping sound) that affected her personally

  • she knew exactly what to do (buckle up) to make the annoying problem go away

That made the difference.


A simple beep erased 90 years of resistance.


Knowing she could die or be wheel-chaired tomorrow; or, that her grandkids would grow up without grandma … didn’t work.


But removing an immediate, pressing problem? That worked like magic.


Anyway, when they got to Jake’s house, his wife Eva, grandkids Chris and Lauren greeted her with flowers.


“Happy birthday grandma – look at you, you drive well, do you like it?”


“Well…”


During birthday cake and coffees, they suggested that Lauren would use grandma’s old Ford from now on – would it be okay? After all, she needs to get to college somehow (it had seatbelts without automatic beeping).


“Sure darling” - grandma said.


She put two and two together now, but it was too late. At least her crampy elbow will finally recover…


Then they all walked outside.


“Grandma, can I come with you and try the Ford”? asked Lauren.


“Course you can, darling.”


They got in, Lauren buckled up; grandma started the car. They slowly pulled out of the driveway.


BEP BEP.


The car stopped for 30 seconds, idling.


CLICK.


Jake, Eva, and Jamie were watching as the car pulled into the quiet suburban road.


They walked slowly toward the house, ears pricked for beeps.

But all they could hear were suburban birds and frogs.



[QUESTION: Are we, humans, capable of long-term focus, or are we wired for short-termism? Think, e.g. climate change]


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