Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash
Taped on the surface of a fold-up table is a big poster where all the children are supposed to put their hand print.
The instructions read:
- Pick a color for your handprint and squirt it onto a paper plate.
- Place your hand in the paint, making sure your palm and fingers are covered.
- Place your hand carefully on the poster to make your handprint.
- Wash your hand off, then come back and write your name by your handprint.
Sounds simple enough. Amelia picks a color (she always picks blue), squirts it onto a plate, and wiggles her hand around in it. Then she goes to choose a spot on the poster. At that point, she realizes everyone else’s handprints have the fingers pointing towards her.
Dilemma: Is the direction of the handprint a rule? It wasn’t written in the instructions. If Amelia did it the other way, would it seem weird? Would they think she was annoying? Or funny? Would it ruin the poster for other people?
Decision: That’s too hard to figure out. Amelia will do her handprint the same direction as everyone else.
Dilemma: How did they even do that? If Amelia tried, she would have to twist her arm around, and definitely end up smearing her handprint, possibly some of the other kids’, too. That would not be following the instructions.
Decision: Keep thinking.
(Random thought: Is anyone noticing her standing uncertainly with paint all over her hand trying to figure this out? Doesn’t look like it. Good.)
Possible solution: Rotate the table so that it’s facing the right direction.
Dilemma: She has paint all over one hand. If she tries to move the table with the other, it would be really loud and everyone would look at her. Would that cause problems? Possibly. Is it something that anyone else did? Probably not. They had some way to do it that did not involve turning the table around.
Decision: Keep thinking.
Possible solution: Somehow get to the other side of the table.
Dilemma: She could go under, but that might cause unwanted attention. She could go around the maze of other tables and people, but that would risk smearing something (or someone) with paint.
Plus people would be able to tell that she’d started the project before she was on the right side of the table. That might be fine, or it might be embarrassing.
Decision: Go under the table and hope nobody notices.
Good news! Nobody noticed! Amelia plants her hand on the poster and continues Step 4 with no further dilemmas.
While she is writing her name, Isaiah comes up behind her. He stands at the table and skims the instructions. He picks a color (but now there will be too much red!), squirts it onto the plate, and covers his hand in paint. He moves over to the poster, picks an open spot, and puts his hand there. Then he goes to wash the paint off.
Amelia takes a moment to wonder at how much time and “dilemma” she would have saved if she, too, had happened to approach the table from the “right” side. Along with most everyone else.
That hadn’t been in the instructions.
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