Same action, same outcome

Today I watched a young lady try to enter the campus center by one of the side doors on the ground floor. The door had a sign posted indicating that users should enter through the main entrance. In spite of this sign, she forged ahead, presenting her NYU ID to the reader on the left side of the door frame, pulling at the smooth metal handle. After I saw her repeat this process three times, I stopped, mostly hidden behind a concrete pillar. As I watched, she tried to get through the side door another three times, without success. Apparently prior experience and the sign were not deterrents. Eventually she admitted defeat, and calmly headed towards the main entrance. The remarkable thing about this young lady was her casual demeanor. This situation did not appear to be frustrating to her. It looked as if each card swipe was a novel experience, an independent event. Maybe getting through the door was like rolling a die and getting a one; if you don’t get one after six tries, you might as well give up.

I can understand if someone feels compelled to swipe his or her card more than one time. I often find myself doing this, thinking that the reason I was barred entrance was due to a technical malfunction. Swiping a third time is usually an act of desperation; my degree of belief that a technical malfunction could occur two times consecutively is low. A failed third attempt means that my access is restricted by a higher power. I’m aware that the card reader makes a different sound if I’ve unlocked the door or if I’m not allowed access, but the sound indicating that I’m not allowed doesn’t feel distinct enough to convince me that I heard incorrectly on the first or second try. Perhaps the girl I saw thought she was hearing the right sound, but couldn’t get through the door. Perhaps she was just absentminded. She could also be a little nuts.

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