A few days ago, I did some grocery shopping. Since I only had a few items, I went to the Express Czechout line.
There were two ladies in front of me in line. They were engrossed in a conversation about their pets. The first lady in line had put her items onto the conveyor and placed a yellow marker stick behind them. The second lady (directly in front of me) was so busy talking with the first that, even as the belt advanced, she didn’t put her items on the belt.
When there was plenty of space on the conveyor for her stuff, I put another yellow stick down and unloaded my items onto the belt behind it. Their lively conversation continued but the lady in front of me still didn’t put her items on the belt when it stopped at the first lady’s stick. Then the lady in front of me removed the first lady’s stick, talking all the while. Doing so let my items advance to the cashier.
After the first lady paid her bill, the two ladies continued their nonstop talking. The cashier removed my stick and started ringing up my items. The second lady was still talking and standing there with her items in her basket.
The first lady then left and the second lady turned to the cashier but realized the cashier was already ringing up my items. She stood there, clearly befuddled. I said to her, “Let’s just switch places, that will fix this.” Then I simply moved around in front of her and got my card out to pay for my groceries. When the cashier gave me my receipt, I looked at the lady and saw she was just standing there. She was still completely befuddled about what had just happened. I took my bag and off I went.
The second lady was a two-legged cheeseburger. She will most likely be oblivious to any opportunistic criminal predator in the parking lot or anywhere else. We often make a big deal about ‘situational awareness,’ but most of the time it’s not really very hard. Decide to get out of your own head and pay attention to the task at hand. Learn to stop talking and refocus on that task until it is completed. Then go back to talking if you need to.
Czeching out, walking to your vehicle, pulling or backing out of your parking spot, and then getting safely on your way are four separate examples of ‘tasks at hand.’ They all represent good opportunities to ‘pay attention to the task at hand.’ Although we hear a lot of blah, blah, blah about multitasking, the fact is that we’re only really good at doing one complex task at a time. Keep that in mind.
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