82. The Roderick Effect
Among the variety of studio spaces I’ve used since getting out of graduate school, I spent a year working out of a friend’s two car garage. Not ideal, certainly, but it was the best I could do at the time. Now this garage, where I also had my electric kiln, was ten or twelve miles from my house. Not a horrible commute, but a bit far to go just to switch an electric kiln from medium to high. So I would phone my friend and he would walk out to the garage and turn up the kiln. Most of the time.
Some mornings I would show up at the studio and the kiln would be as I had left it (on medium), switched off by the timer. The problem was my friend, “Roderick”. Whenever I called to ask him to turn up a kiln, I was interrupting a rich and complex life I could not know much about. At the moment the phone clicked back into its cradle something clicked in his mind, too. That click said, “Where was I?” And he would resume his life.
It would be convenient (and malicious) to blame this natural self-centered ditziness on Roderick, but later, similar situations with my wife showed the problem to be more universal. The phone would go “click” and she would return to her previous activities. I would eventually return to the studio and the kiln would be as I had left it...on medium.
The fact of the matter is that whatever their good intentions, people focus on their own problems and can be easily distracted from their stated willingness to help you with yours. [We think the “click” of the phone may also be a factor.]
So, now I ask, “can you turn up the kiln, please? I’ll wait on the line and you can tell me how it was.” We both smile, think fondly of Roderick, and the kiln gets turned up. Because the phone call is not over, the task is not over. End of task, then end of phone call.
This is not something to get angry about or to let spoil friendships (or marriages). This is just modern minds at work and the best we can do, either asking the favor or delivering it, is to adapt politely.
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