Friday, April 2, 2010

The Three Second Rule

Everyone knows the five-second rule (which stretches to the fifteen second rule if you are really hungry). This is the rule that any piece of food that falls to the floor can be still be safely eaten if it is picked up within five seconds of hitting said floor. This is the corollary to the wisdom my Eagle Scout father imparted to me decades ago – “A little dirt never hurt anybody.”

There are several three-second rules that have nothing to do with safe food consumption.

The first is in honor of March Madness – the three-second rule in basketball. It essentially means you can’t just park yourself under the basket either offensively or defensively. If you violate the rule, the other team gets the ball.

There is also a three-second rule in defensive driving. This rule of thumb helps prevent tailgating by keeping a safe distance between your car and the one in front of you. In Chicago expressway reality, it means giving another driver (OR TWO) more than enough room to cut in front of you. If you violate the rule, you’ll get home in a timely manner.

My daughter gave me a third three-second rule she devised. She may have invented this rule as a result of the years she spent in suburban Minneapolis and being exposed there to what is known as “Minnesota Nice.” This three-second rule involves door swings and common courtesy. I run into this at train stations all the time, but it happens here on campus on occasion, as well.

I’m walking a couple of steps behind someone who pushes a door wide open and then just keeps on walking WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING BACK. I’m just far enough behind for the door to be at the fastest part of its arc back to being fully closed when I reach it. Now it takes a needless extra effort to counteract the force of the door slamming into me and to reverse its momentum so I can pass through.

This a happy camper does not in me make.

My daughter’s three-second rule is to look back (while still holding the door) and do a quick mental calculation of whether or not the next person will reach the door in three or less seconds. If she or he is estimated to get there within that EXTREMELY SHORT length of time, she’ll hold the door open and then pass it off in hopes that person will extend a similar courtesy to the next person. If it looks to be more than three seconds, she continues on her way allowing the door to shut completely before the arrival of the next person.

By quantifying the appropriate amount of time that one should hold a door open before the next person feels compelled to quicken their pace was conceptually very useful for me. Even when I am in a great hurry, I ALWAYS have THREE SECONDS of courtesy left in me.

This is not a random act of kindness. This is an intentional act of common courtesy. The more such acts we do around campus, the friendlier the UIC campus will become.

One of the goals of the Master Plan is to make this an even more welcoming campus. Let’s all start implementing that goal right here, right now.

Just remember these four little words - The Three-Second Rule.

PS Do I have the smartest daughter, or what?

Question of the Week: What other intentional acts of common courtesy should we be performing?

Until next Friday…

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