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November 13, 2007

Holding Doors for Strangers and Correcting Absentminded Errors

"No Other Warranties, Expressed or Implied"

By Nate Kurtis

Just last week, I was walking into Hutchins Hall carrying a box of canned goods for one of the recent food drives. This box was so large that I was not sure how I would manage to both hold it up and simultaneously open one of the ancient doors of our hallowed institution of higher learning. Fortunately, I happened to be walking behind another law student who was entering the school at the same time. I asked her to hold open the door as she opened it, and was rewarded for my efforts by slamming, box-first, into the door as it slammed shut behind her.

This is certainly not the sort of behavior one would hope to see in our law school! This community of helpful, friendly people is what drew many of us to the frozen tundra of Ann Arbor in the first place!

Given how very un-Michigan-like this girl’s behavior was, I am refraining from using her name. This is also because I don’t know what it is; but, hopefully she will read these words and know exactly who she is….

…Or maybe not. You see, I think the reason for her behavior, beyond any specific self-centeredness or an inherent streak of rudeness, might have had something to do with the cell phone she was busy blathering on. She was, I imagine, so caught up in the narrative of her friend’s recent bar night debauchery that what little of her attention could be spared was needed, entirely, to open the door for just herself.

Many of you who may have shared my dissatisfaction with this girl’s conduct before are now likely much less concerned knowing that her actions were the result of a cell phone conversation. Indeed, cell phone-induced zombification is so prevalent that it isn’t hard to imagine this sort of thing happening to each of us quite often. Yet, just because it is so common an occurrence these days doesn’t mean it is the way things should be in a perfect world. Nor, sadly, is the cell phone the only example of this sort of behavior. Indeed, I believe that the cell phone is just one more example of a whole suite of situations and activities which we do so often that we no longer even think about them – nor, it seems, do we think about much else around us.

These common activities, ever-increasing in number, are the activities which we do most often, the events and situations which we encounter so frequently that we are able to do them without thinking. And, while we absentmindedly go through the motions of these activities, we inadvertently make errors in judgment which we wouldn’t otherwise make if we were actually paying attention. I imagine that this girl, had she been paying attention, would have been happy to hold the door open for me. Instead, her otherwise good nature was suppressed by her absentminded cell phone use.

This is really the point I want to make: There is, in our daily lives, so very much we take for granted. There are so many things we do without thinking about them simply because we can. There are so many circumstances, and even relationships, in which we go through the motions absentmindedly.

We shouldn’t!

Just because we happen to be on a cell phone, connecting with people far away from us, doesn’t mean we should then ignore the people who are actually in the immediate vicinity. Just because this is our third year of law school doesn’t mean we should phone in the effort in our classes… at least the few we bother to attend. Just because we have been in a relationship with someone for some time doesn’t mean we should take that relationship, or any relationships we have with people around us, for granted.

We should rebel against wandering our way through our days! We should choose to take active, concrete steps to reverse this troublesome trend in daily life!

We 3Ls should hearken back to our 1L days, when we actually read a case book and trembled at the thought of missing classes.

Those of us in relationships should take this opportunity to do something for, with, or to our partners. If you find yourself needing suggestions, turn to ”Between the Briefs” on the next page.

As for the rest of you: hang up your damn cell phones and get the door for me! This box is getting heavy!!

Nate Kurtis is a 3L and the Editor-in-Chief of Res Gestae. He can still be reached with comments or questions at nkurtis@umich.edu.