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Why Is Everyone Just Like Me?

August 23, 2016

I never noticed how many purple cars there were in my town. . .until I bought one. Now it seems like every other car on the road is purple.

I spent a lot of time in a technical support call center. Even in my job now, I support a call floor. It wasn’t uncommon, when I was supporting Micorosft’s email systems to have someone call in with a problem that I couldn’t duplicate. 

It works on my machine.

The implication is that if you are calling me, you are just like me. 

Hey Rodney, this is Marcus. I have a user who cannot get to your recording database.

Have you tried logging in as them?

Yeah, if I log in with her credentials it works from my machine. It just doesn’t work from her computer.

We tend to assume that people are like us. (Turns out that Marcus had a host file entry that was making his request route through a different firewall than his user.) 

I was waiting for the train yesterday morning with the rest of the commuters. Much of the talk was around first day of school. (The REAL End Of Summer) I overheard a woman say,

My son is a junior this year.

I didn’t hear much of the rest of the conversation. That piece stuck out to me. Four of my kids are juniors this year. She was just like me. 

A little while later the man she was talking to said,

Sure, it would be faster to drive, but I like taking the train. It gives me a chance to write.

It would also be faster for me to drive, but I like taking the train because . . .it gives me a chance to write. He was just like me, too.

It got me thinking about the purple car. If you don’t drive a purple car, I assume you cannot remember the last time you saw one. They are not a common color. If you have a purple car, I’ll bet you can tell me everyone else in your town who also has one. We look for the familier. 

If you go on vacation to Boston, you will see some wonderful sites. The USS Constitution is in Boston. Paul Revere’s work shop. the old North church (one if by land, two if by sea.) But, I’m guessing you will not seek out a native of Boston and randomly strike up a conversation. 

Now, instead of a trip to Boston, imagine you are going to Dubai, a city on the Persian Gulf. You will see some wonderful sites. the Gold Festival was going one when I was there and it was amazing. I also went on a desert safari that was magical. Now suppose you find out that another American, someone from say, Boston is also on the desert safari? Chances are you will strike up a conversation with them. 

What’s the difference? If you were vacationing in Boston, or even another major US city, you wouldn’t seek this person out, but while you are both driving in a Toyota Land Cruiser up and over the sand dunes, you would. I think it’s because we seek out the familiar. It’s why you might pass someone everyday in the hallway at work and never speak, but if you found yourself on a camping trip and they were in the same campground, you might reach out and say hello. It’s why on the train platform I only heard the portions of the portions of the conversation that were “like me.” It’s why the person with a purple car notices all the other purple cars. 

Why is everyone like me? Because I tend to notice the people who are like me: parents of high school kids, a train writer, a purple car owner, an American in the United Arab Emerates. So, don’t feel bad that everyone is like me. Everyone is like you too. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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