Herd Instinct

We’re all lemmings. I saw it proven today on my breakfast trip to Au Bon Pain.

Typically one or more of us in immediate vicinity of my desk will go down for a food run once a day. Sometimes more than once. We can be hungry people. And sometimes I will see someone from another part of the office with the same idea at the same time, either in the ABP or on the way to or from it. Today, the numbers were a little excessive. Midmorning, I ran into no less than 4 other coworkers getting food, and this on a day when all of us are hecticly stressed and barely have time to breathe.

Now, some of you might be saying that all made sense. Some of you might claim that everyone gets hungry midmorning.  Others would attempt to prove that in periods of stress, people naturally burn more calories (needing more food) or give themselves small breaks to relieve tension, making trips to ABP more frequent when office stress levels are high.  Others would say that some natural phenomena within the office – a smell or even the angle of light – had cause each of us to react similarly.  But I think there’s more to it than environmental response.  I think there’s something out there we haven’t quite understood yet that will cause a few random people to go postal but the rest of us to sit down calmly to lunch.

What is this thing that tells us when to move in step with the group? Are there times when love really is ‘in the air’?  Are connections and awarenesses heightened by internal factors that cannot be reduced to chemical interactions?  Do we decide about even the bit part of our lives, or are we merely small cogs in some giant machine we can only discern a small part of? Are we all innately connected, or do we all march slightly out of step with one another, no matter how hard we try to live in sync?

I’m not sure.  But there is something there.  Almost every day I get an apple strudel from ABP as a snack.  Rarely I alternate with a chocolate chip cookie.  Today I got an almond croissant.  What does it all mean?

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