Tuesday, January 15

Aw man, I'm on holiday - don't make me work!

Hey, it was nice to be missed at the all new Mediation Channel.com and even be considered worthy of a missing person alert by Chris Annunziata.

And thanks also to Vickie Pynchon, eleanorburnejones and Tammy Lenski for noticing one voice was missing from the usual chorus.

Well folks, I always try to bring back a mediation story when I go bush - like this one on post-decision dissonance in Fiji or this from ZhongShan, China when we were too stressed to negotiate.

So... there we were - just after Christmas - on a main highway at the bottom of the South Island of New Zealand and crossing a one-way road/rail bridge. I remembered it from my own childhood, when Mum and Dad took us on a road trip in the family caravan.

Yep, you heard right... a one-way bridge on the main trunk road and the train goes over the top!

As we pulled up to the bridge I saw a number of cars in line - we had only seen the odd passing car for the last two hours so I knew something was up - perhaps an accident? Or maybe a tourist panicked as the coal train clattered along above them making the bridge swing wildly from side to side.

I got out to investigate wishing I was a doctor. The cry rarely goes out for a mediator at roadside emergencies, although we probably see about as much blood on the floor as they do.

I eventually got to the head of the line of rubber-neckers half way over the bridge, only to observe two beefy looking high context campers facing each other off, both red from the sun and the conflict - one with his belly protruding under his dirty white singlet, the other in a terry towling hat known to be extinct since the seventies.

They were at a stand off. They had entered the bridge at the same time from opposite ends and neither was willing to select reverse gear. As onlookers enjoyed the sport, it was clear they were growing restless in the heat of the day.

What was to be done?

A couple of people were making half-hearted interventions to make both men see sense, but they were ineffectual.

I diagnosed the situation...nothing, nada, a blank - hey! I was on holiday.

Then, as I stood there, on that old creaking wooden bridge, I had my new year's eureka moment.


That was the problem. Both men had got themselves into a corner, neither knew a way to put themselves and their overloaded old cars into reverse without backing down.

I was a doctor after all! But how to address this prickly barrier to resolution in the hot midday sun so far from a whiteboard?

So I hesitated - well they were big, fat and angry - and I was only one of those after my Christmas day.

Then I did what any reader of this blog would do... I acted in a decisive and professionally appropriate way.

And that's my question to you, my dear reader:
What did I do to get the traffic moving?


Chris Annunziata said...

If it were me, and I was technically on vacation, I probably would have acted in a decisive manner, but it might not have been professional. When faced with such situations so far from a windowless conference room and a whiteboard, I occasionally kick into what my wife embarrassedly calls "New Jersey Mode" and start channeling my inner "paisan".

But you asked us what YOU did. This sounds like one of those thought problems. A dead man is found in a room that locks from the inside and there is a puddle of water on the floor. How did he die?

Victoria Pynchon, said...

flip a coin!

A professional and decisive mediator said...

Take the guy's terry towling hat and run to the far end of the bridge (he's not the fat one, right?). Give him 30 seconds to collect it before you throw it into the river below.

Esmeralda said...

You went into caucus and asked each one why it was important to him to get over the bridge first, and explored the emotional basis for this need. You then brought them together and spent several hours allowing them to reach empowerment and recognition. Eventually, they fell into each other's arms weeping, at which point the impatient mob stormed the bridge and pushed all three of you over the side.

perpster said...

You had them agree to back off to their respective sides and allow all traffic to pass. Only then could they resume their standoff. If they could not resolve it on their own within half an hour after that, a game of chicken would commence. Loser to clear the bridge of debris, winner to give the loser a lift to the nearest publican house where they would both rejoice in their Kiwi Eskapade over some room temperature lager. Of course they will send you a postcard every year on the anniversary of the founding of their friendship.

Did I hit the nail on the head?