Daddy’s Anecdotes #1: Puerto Ricans Don’t Read Instructions

Waiting in Line --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
 Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Before returning home one afternoon, my father Rafael went to retrieve some cash from the nearest ATM. He’d parked the SUV not too far from Banco Popular in the town of Rio Grande, just at a corner behind a long file of cars. Just as he stepped out, he noticed there was already a line of people waiting to use the machine—nine to be exact—and found it strange that they weren’t using the second ATM that was in the wall.

“It’s broken,” he heard one customer say.
“Oh, that’s a pity,” my father sighed, placing his hands inside his pockets in a sign of resignation.

Dad shrugged as he realized there was a sheet of paper posted over the second machine, and assumed it must have read that the device was out of order. He stood quietly in the end, waiting patiently, and yet somewhat unsatisfied with the other customers’ ordinary answer; It’s broken.
He’d always been the kind of person who needed to test things before drawing out conclusions. He needed to find out why the machine wasn’t working, causing such great delay and frustration, not to mention a feeling of distrust, among those present. After all, only the person in the front must have read the page—only one person had begun to pass the chain message throughout the growing line. But there was Rafael, the curious perfectionist, stepping ahead just to check out the intriguing piece of paper. He approached it eagerly, ignoring the skeptical eyes that followed him. But as he laid eyes over the words, he scoffed with the deepest irony.

1) Insert Card
2) Insert Pin Number
3) Retrieve Card when finished

Who would have thought it?

They were mere instructions on how to use the machine, since the demo on the display was not working properly.

Every single person present must have seen the piece of paper, taped right above the cash-spitting device. But they didn’t read it, not even the first individual in line. Each one of them was given a fragment of information they were satisfied with.

It’s broken. And that was enough for them.

They listened to the bad news and accepted them without concern. They were incapable of turning their heads slightly to the left, towards the page on the panel. They conformed themselves with rumors and recycled words.
But why?
How hard could it be, just to glance at the piece of paper for a couple of seconds?
Why couldn’t they just move out of the line of conformism, in order to find the truth behind the rumor?
We disbelieve easily, and we also believe out of blindness, putting our faith and decisions in the hands of flawed individuals like ourselves. Avoiding a simple action turned a short trip to the ATM into an annoying task for nearly a dozen people at the time. I wonder how many more believed it before that hour, and how many more will fall for the trap later on.

What a crazy thing, laziness. But is it laziness, or that we’re just easily resigned? If only we could close our ears to recycled messages and lies, and make the effort to discover the truth, then maybe we wouldn’t have to be waiting in the end of the line. Always….waiting, always delayed, because we blindly believe in everything others say.

Stop. Take charge.


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