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In or Out of the Box?

November 21, 2016

People often comment on how in sync Mrs. Chatterbox and I are, and it’s true that after being together for nearly fifty years we’re capable of finishing each other’s sentences, but in one regard we’re remarkably different.


It’s become a cliché, but for years people have been encouraged to “think outside the box,” to step outside your comfort zone to expose yourself to possibilities you wouldn’t normally consider. This has never been a problem for me. Truth be told, I’ve always had a problem with authority and have always danced to my own drumbeat.


As an example, while working as a display manager for a major department store, I was tasked with creating a kite display in our toy department. Ignoring the memo showing the authorized display, I wrapped a stuffed denizen of Sesame Street—Snuffleupagus—in kite string, and hung the kite beneath an air vent. Customers walking into the department were drawn by the motion of a kite whipping back and forth as poor Snuffleupagus, unable to control the kite, was enveloped like a mummy wrapped in string, with only his sad eyes poking out.





My supervisor was not pleased at my unorthodox approach and ordered my display taken down and replaced with the authorized one. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to comply because by then we’d sold all of our kites. We also sold all of our Sesame Street items.


Mrs. C. does not share my enthusiasm for “thinking outside the box.” Like many people, she takes comfort in the box, is reassured knowing how things are supposed to work and follows rules to achieve a positive, expected, outcome.


Not long ago I drove Mrs. C. to the hospital for a minor medical procedure. When we arrived at the check-in desk, Mrs. C. followed protocol by going to the end of the line and weaving through an area corded off like the security line at an airport. The maze she passed through was completely empty; we were the only ones checking in, yet she refused to proceed directly to the front desk.


Mrs. C. was an Army brat raised on the importance of “chain of command,” and she’s long been a believer that there’s a right and wrong way to do things. This philosophy continued when twenty years ago she went to work for our local police department, which like the military is based on a chain of command.


Like many people, Mrs. Chatterbox takes comfort in rules, and it’s amazing she’s put up with me all these years since I tend to question everything. I haven’t always benefitted from breaking rules, and as often as not her way of thinking has proven more beneficial than mine.




Disclaimer: Mrs. C. claims there was no maze and thinks this post makes her seem foolish. She’d like it known that, in the words of another Mrs. C.—spouse of famous marital philosopher Cranky Old Man whose blog can be found here—her husband can be a jerk.






What about you? Do you follow rules or do you blaze your own path? 







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It depends on the situation. If i can clearly see why the rules are there and how they will benefit, i will follow them. If i can see the rules are constraining in a situation that has no need for constraint, i'll go my own way. As an example, if there's no line, i don't always go through the roped off area, unless that's the fastest way to go.
By: messymimi on November 21, 2016
If there's no one in the maze I see no reason not to just go up to the counter, though some places they have it so you'd have to duck under the rope or bars so then I'd go through the maze. What's annoying is if I choose to follow the rules and go through the maze and someone else comes in after me, ducks under the rope or bar, and gets in ahead of me.
By: PT Dilloway on November 21, 2016
BTW, your kite display sounds awesome. And obviously it was more effective.
By: PT Dilloway on November 21, 2016
I am much more like your wife and did the same thing at the fast food place yesterday by weaving down the line although only one person was buying food ahead of me. Hubby thought I was Odd. He is exactly like you. Rules are made to be stretched, folder, ignored or sometimes broken. (I tried to "follow" you on my side bar, but it required me to load my info from Facebook and as I am annonymous here, that would not work for me.)
By: Tabor on November 21, 2016
In or out of the box? It depends. If I'm presented a situation that I've been in before, and I got out of it before, I just do it again. If it ain't broken, don't fix it. But I have no problem adjusting to the times, and if I can find an easier/better way to do something, I go for it. I'm not married to any particular ideology or stodgy habit.
By: scott park on November 21, 2016
As others have said it depends on the situation, I tend to be more like Mrs Chatterbox when it comes to queuing. I'm pretty disciplined.
By: LL COOL JOE on November 21, 2016
When I was a teenager, I worked at Woolworth's where I one day offered a suggestion to my store manager. He asked me whose name was on the front of the building, and of course I said Woolworth's, to which he responded that I wasn't being paid to think. This made no sense, but i got the point.
By: S on November 21, 2016
If the rules make sense- I comply . If they don't I don't either. For example: we were approaching customs with the silly back and forth line management setup and only a few people were in line. We simply ducked under and got in line behind the few. We saw no point in weaving. Have a lovely day and Happy Thanksgiving!
By: Kathe W. on November 21, 2016
That is so funny! I often weave through the maze at the bank needlessly, part as a goof, and part just following the rules. I am part German and ve vill obey the rooles.
By: cranky on November 21, 2016
Tell Tabor she can follow by email...I do.
By: cranky on November 21, 2016
I think it depends on my mood!
By: John Gibson on November 21, 2016
Definitely a rule follower. Married to a rule questioner/breaker. We manage :)
By: jenny_o on November 21, 2016
P.S. I think you should go back and see if there was a maze and then let us know.
By: Snowbrush on November 21, 2016
In the workplace, I was forever known as the "shortcut queen" because I was always looking for the quickest solution to a situation. There are times though that I do follow the rules but still, I'm always analyzing the quickest way to solve something. Does that make me weird?
By: Bee BB Bee on November 21, 2016
I'm 50/50 on this question.
By: Daniel LaFrance on November 21, 2016
I don't like following rules. I'm a rebel but I'm not offensive about any of this. I think you're the typical artist. To be creative you have to think outside the box.
By: redKline on November 21, 2016
From "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre": "Rules? We don't need no stinkin' rules!!"
By: fishducky on November 21, 2016
I like rules, but usually consider them guidelines and, I will challenge rules whenever i want. Although, I have always agreed with and really felt Mrs. C's pain, I find it hard to believe you can REALLY be a jerk... maybe just a little creative with your stories.
By: Mitchell is Moving on November 21, 2016
Kind of sad that your supervisor was so dense that he didn't realize how successful you were. I am often out of the box and quite impulsive. I am always convinced that there must be a better, easier way. .
By: Arkansas Patti on November 21, 2016
I was thinking when you wrote that you always had a problem with authority that your wife worked for the p.d. And didn't your son also?
By: Catalyst on November 21, 2016
Ha - Cranky's comment made me laugh. I, of course, am ALL German and not only vill ve obey ze rooles, ve vill make ze rooles - lots of them!
By: Pixel Peeper on November 21, 2016
I am so far inside the box that I have bubble wrap AND foam popcorn AND wadded paper covering me, with the flaps glued, stapled and taped. Must be all those years as a teacher. Rules are made to be strictly enforced. Except maybe the bank maze in the absence of customers.
By: Val on November 21, 2016
I'm a rebel, proudly so. I can't imagine being a creative person and NOT thinking outside of the box. Is that even possible?
By: Robyn Engel on November 21, 2016
I broke into reporting at a time when the operative protocol was to do what you needed, go where you needed to get the story realizing you can always ask for forgiveness later. Rules, like traffic lights or stop signs could be a hinderance.
By: Tom Cochrun on November 21, 2016
I am fine at thinking out of the box till someone asks me to do it. Then, I don't want to.
By: Jenny on November 22, 2016
I get the jerk label quite often too. R
By: Rick Watson on November 27, 2016
I like to think I'm a rebel, but I am so totally NOT a rebel. I get nervous when I start doing things outside the box. Very annoying!
By: The Bug on December 1, 2016

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