If you have had special dogs as I have, you know what it is like to be herded to bed, outdoors or to their daily walk. We are taught in day school how to be herded, picking our lunch trays, forming lines for ice cream and milk and waiting for the bus in the afternoon. All lined up. A sort of “people mushing.” Like dogs in the Alaska tundra, we follow the leader, usually the strongest of the pack.
Becoming adults, we have the freedom to march to our own drummers. I can go get groceries whenever I want, whatever day, whatever time. My oil change will be what I determine along with the make and model of the car I am driving. The dishwasher and washing machine run on the schedule I set. The birds are fed about the same time every day and they call and chirp to remind me if I forget.
Herding takes on a new meaning if I need titles, tags or other permits from local or state governments. The departments have large waiting areas. I go inside and take a number. With many other people, I wait. It seems talking with each other is frowned upon, I wonder if we would be considered making too much noise like when the teacher rapped the desk with her ruler in first grade? Anyway, I take in my phone/computer and read and answer emails. Parents bring their children, children cry and cry. Specially challenged people must follow the lines also. The chairs are hard and the floors are slick. Getting up from the chairs to move to another room with more chairs is trying. I find I have to get settled, make my nesting spot; only to find it is time to tear it up and move to the next station or location.
My neighbor tries to herd me. Did you know your shutter is askew? Did you know it has been that way for almost a month? What are you planting in the flower bed? The implication is how what I do on my property might affect hers. Again, we must fall into line and keep everything tidy according to the neighborhood rules.
The place I notice herding the most is any medical setting. When getting a mammogram, I felt shunted from one area to the next. I kept wondering if this type of inner traveling occurs so the staff will not be overwhelmed with the pain of those who have a difficult diagnosis. Even the language was the same each time. I wanted to say: I am a person, I have a name, please do not treat me as a number. We are all indoors and cannot see outside for a reality check. The offices were surreal; shades of taupe and gray. No flowers or plants, divorced from my everyday reality. Even the desks are arranged so the women who work there do not face the windows. What kind of existence is this? If herding is to work, humane consulting may be necessary. How to provide spaces which encourage conversation, provide children with pastimes and even offer coffee and water? Animals in the zoo get as much as this for their daily living. Why do we sterilize our inside environments to such an extent? Is it really efficient? These types of lines, people moving spheres may be worthwhile, but, they also seem ridculous and time wasting for the waiters. Perhaps, that is why we call it bureaucracy??