We’d walk into class and sit down next to our friends. I’d try to sit next to Darren or Steve. If they weren’t in my class, maybe Robbie or Dana from the school bus. We were crazy elementary school kids, full of first day jitters. If you didn’t have any friends in the same class, then you’d sit in the back of the class or by the window, so that you had an interesting view looking out to the playground.
Of course, our freedom would always be short-lived.
The teacher would recognize the Chatty Cathy’s and the Babbling Bob’s in the first few days of school and, when we came back after the Labor Day holiday, he or she would assign everyone in the class an assigned seat. Sure, the teacher would always promise to move the seats around, maybe at the end of the first quarter or later in the fall, but he or she never did.
To make matters worse, the assigned seat game never bode well for me. Since some school administrator had marked in my file long ago that I had a hearing loss, I would always be seated in the dreaded front row. I would complain how it was “unfair and unjust” but it never did me any good.
Oh, how times have changed
We hated assigned seats as kids, but I’ve been surprised to notice that we don’t seem to mind them as adults. Here’s what I mean: A few weeks ago, I flew to Boston for a week-long process mapping and work meeting. After catching up with a few folks and getting introduced to a couple that I didn’t, we all filed into the large conference room and sat down.
The funny thing: Where we sat on the first day of the conference is where we sat the entire week. Each day we followed the same pattern. We may as well have been granted Lordship and Ladyship of our two feet of table space, granted with all the rights and privileges of property owners, because even with the addition of new speakers and attendees, we clung to our our original spots.
Something happened on the road to adulthood
I walked away on the final day, reflecting on the strangeness of the phenomenon. What is it about us that seeks out structure and normalcy? As a kid, I would have strained against that. I wanted my freedom to choose and act as I saw fit. As an adult ironically we adhere and conform to it. I suspect there’s a message related to today’s political landscape, included in there, but I’ll leave that for another day.
I’m left with one simple conclusion: People are strange. And don’t you dare think about stealing my seat!