Saturday, June 23, 2012

Just Do It, Dammit

Over the years, I’ve noticed something interesting about people  - there are 2 kinds of them (yes, this is one of *those* observations. Stick with me, it’ll be OK).

So, the two kinds of people are those who “Process Then Act (PTA)” and those who “Act Then Process (ATP)”.

“What does this mean?” you ask. I’m glad you did. It gives me a chance to wax eloquent (who Eloquent is, and why they need to be waxed is a whole other blog). But I digress.

What this means is that when the feces impacts the oscillating device, when action is required, when an emergency situation arises, people will do one of two things:

A)     PTA: Observe what is going on, think about it, look around to see what can/is being done and by whom, think about it again, and then do something in reaction – either assist, encourage, observe passively or flee.
B)      ATP: See something that triggers a response, respond, then think about what just happened.

I have observed this behavior pattern directly several times in my life, read about it many times in news articles or seen it on news videos.

The most recent example of the latter was the case of a driver who lost control of her vehicle, hit a tollbooth and flipped partially over. She was trapped, since the doors wouldn’t open, and the car started to smolder. Several helpful folks milled around, trying to figure out what to do to get her out. The video shows them, talking, pushing, pulling but nothing was happening – some started to back away from the obvious danger that the car posed. Another passing motorist (an off-duty Air Force serviceman) strides up, grabs a fire extinguisher from somewhere, climbs up on the burning car, and proceeds to smash the window into oblivion. He reaches down, pulls the woman bodily from the shattered wreck, sticks around long enough to see her under medical supervision, and then goes off about his business. I’m pretty sure he got the shakes on the drive home, but it didn’t matter a damn by then.

Emergency situations have arisen several times in my life, and the same sort of thing happened each time. The scenarios ranged from minor (a surge suppressor popping and starting to burn; folks going down from heat, horses escaping from their paddock) to major (a friend being badly beaten; an attempted kidnapping). Each time, I reacted instinctively, and without thought. Sometimes, someone else did the same along with me, and it was like being in a Matrix “bullet-time” scene: WE were moving at a normal pace, but everyone else was moving like molasses. Act. Don’t think, Act. Boom, boom, and done.

In each case, the actions were generally correct and the situation was handled, but I take no credit for that – because I had NO idea what I was doing at the time. Something just impelled me to NOT just sit there. It’s very strange, because (as those of you who know me) I am a very methodical person. Hell, I’m a Systems ANALYST, for pity’s sake. I analyze. I think. I plan. I don’t like being rushed.

And yet, on occasion, my mind makes me toss all that out the window, and go for it.

I’m not the only one to be puzzled by this behavior. There are so many interviews with servicemen who – when asked why they did the actions for which they were being awarded a medal – simply say something like “it needed doing, and I was there. Anyone would have done the same”.

I don’t know if that’s necessarily the truth, though. I’m pretty sure everyone would have WANTED to do the same, but – even though training clearly helps – I think some folks are wired differently. Not necessarily better - because we don’t usually find out about folks who reacted but failed because they picked the wrong reaction – but different.

Regardless, I strongly believe that the “A” part of the PTA/ATP acronym is the most important. Civilization has always been kept moving forward by people who ACTED based on their beliefs, inspirations, and passions. So, whether you are wired to think first or not – ACT. Do not just observe events, or watch others participate in them. YOU can do something – small, large, it matters not at all. Leave your mark on the world – make a difference.

I never worry about action, but only inaction.
Winston Churchill


  1. In an emergency I tend to act first, but during my day I tend to think about daily choices too much.

  2. When it comes to emergencies, the right now something has to happen emergencies, my normal brain is over ridden by my emergency brain which I believe accesses some great ethereal collection of emergency knowledge, and throws me into action. Its that thing that makes me grab a six year old and pull them from the on coming weight for distance at a highland games and such.
    Of course I would like to think that part of me will always take over, but I am slightly afraid some day it wont.

    1. Me too! I have become very fond of my emergency brain!

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  4. Awwww....thanks, sweetie! Sure appreciate that! :)