This I Believe
A couple of weeks ago I had spent three days with two cousins of mine who were visiting from Bolivia. They had previously visited family in New York, so Washington DC was their last stop. On the first two days of their visit, we toured the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Museum of American History, as well as the best commercial spots in the area. I had become their designated tour guide, and it proved to be exhausting. Despite the exhaustion, cold weather, and the urge to stay in (along side hot chocolate), I deemed it necessary to find new places to take my two cousins on their last day in the area. As I approached their door I turned my frown upside down and entered the room with a big smile and what appeared to be anxiousness to get the day started at 10am. Although they seemed tired at first they too became anxious to spend their last day exploring what the District had to offer. At the end of the day and after finally arriving back home at 6pm, we were all completely overwhelmed by the activities of the day. I later found out, that my cousins would have much rather preferred to spend the day with me at home rather than outdoors visiting the monuments and struggling to keep warm. When I asked them why they didn’t mention this when I went into their room, they told me it was because I had been planned the day and seemed excited about it.
There is a paradox in the world of management that a professor of mine presented to the class earlier. It is called The Abilene Paradox by Jerry B. Harvey; it tells a story that as you’ll see I related to very well in this situation. The story goes as follows.
“On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas, the family is comfortably playing dominoes on a porch, until the father-in-law suggests that they take a trip to Abilene [53 miles north] for dinner. The wife says, “Sounds like a great idea.” The husband, despite having reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinks that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group and says, “Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go.” The mother-in-law then says, “Of course I want to go. I haven’t been to Abilene in a long time.” The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the cafeteria, the food is as bad. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted. One of them dishonestly says, “It was a great trip, wasn’t it.” The mother-in-law says that, actually, she would rather have stayed home, but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The husband says, “I wasn’t delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you.” The wife says, “I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that.” The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored. The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably, but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon. “
When I became aware of the fact that my cousins and I would have preferred to stay indoors on their last day, as opposed to exhausting the tourist sites of what DC had to offer, I could only think that I too had taken a trip to Abilene, and I could not stop laughing. I believe that if my cousins or I had suggested spending the day inside it would have been a much better use of our time. I have been to Abilene more times than I would like and I would encourage everyone to avoid that unnecessary trip. I believe that this will be my last trip to Abilene, and therefore worth sharing. This I believe.
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