The artefacts of change

The business school is closed for the end of year holidays and while many students have taken the opportunity to recharge by spending time with families or travelling with friends, I have spent most of it at home doing errands and day trips. I personally hate contending with the crowds and traffic at Christmas.

Nonetheless, I did rent a car this time as we will be doing some day trips. One thing I noticed when I checked the car for damages was that there was no USB port in the car. Not a big deal since I have an in-car charger for my phone but I then noticed that the charging port only had a cover and then the well (is that even the right terminology) for you to insert your charger. I had been expecting a metal tube that I would have to remove before inserting the charger.

Those of you much younger than myself would not understand why I am so perplexed but decades ago it was perfectly acceptable to smoke in your car. Car manufacturers obliged by installing what is now the charging port act as a cigarette lighter. Recognising that it is difficult to strike a match or fumble in your coat for your lighter while driving, they had this metal tube in what is now the charging port which was heated by the electricity and could be used to light your cigarette. For some reason, that had been a standard item even after it did not become socially acceptable to smoke in your car, and in the case of rental cars, prohibitively expensive to do so.

Modern cars now have USB ports so you don’t need a separate charger but as we make this transition we are still left with the old cigarette lighter doubling up as a charger. I wonder how many people who don’t know about its previous use have wondered why we have such a strange interface in some of our cars when a more efficient one (the USB port exists).

This reminded me of something that our Director of the MBA Jane Davies says to new students during Orientation. She points out that in the UK there are some sinks where there are separate hot and cold water taps. Many non-UK students are perplexed by this since it would make more sense to have just one tap to control the temperature of the water. I won’t spoil her presentation for next year by revealing the reason but her point is that our students come from all over the world and there will be things or processes in the UK, or the University or the business school that one finds odd. It is counter productive to complain about every single thing and insist that it has to be exactly the way one is used to back in your home country but it is better to sometimes accept these differences and learn to move on. Or else you will be the person who loses valuable holiday time by berating the rental car company for not having a USB port in their car while you have an in-car charger at hand all along.

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