May 27, 2009

Although the following story is absolutely true, the identity of everyone involved (besides myself) has been changed to prevent all lawsuits.

I was once at an airport queuing up to go through check-in when one of the security team came over, flashed his ID and asked if I wouldn't mind helping in security training. My job - if I chose to take it - involved swapping passports with the man in front of me, to see if the security team would notice when they checked me in. I agreed, mainly because he promised that I would not have to stand in line anymore (actually I said that if that was the offer I would be willing to swap passports with a penguin, but he assured me that just the passport switch would suffice).

I now had a new passport and a new identity; I was Herschel, whose passport picture was of a red-headed chassid with large glasses, a ginger beard and sidelocks. To be honest, a blind man would have picked up the difference between us.

Before I knew it, I was ushered in front of a young and obviously new security officer. She looked at my passport, held it up to my face to check the photo, asked me some rudimentary questions, crossed my name off a list and told me to enjoy the flight. I was stunned. How had she not managed to spot the differences? The only resemblance we had - that I could tell - was that we both had a head !

Now consider this:

In 1969, Jerzy Kosinsky wrote a novel called Steps, which won the American National Book Award for fiction. The amazing thing is that eight years later, somebody retyped it and sent the manuscript with no title and under a false name, to 27 major publishers in America, including Random House, the firm that had published the original. Of them all, not one of them recognised that it had already been published! And even more incredibly, all 27 rejected it! All it lacked was Kosinsky's name, but without it, it was seen as completely unexceptional.

People often see what they want to see and sometimes even-though the evidence hits them in the face, they won't see it because they don't want to. Our eyes are open but sometimes we aren't looking and we make mistakes simply because we don't take the time to really have a good look at what is in front of us.

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