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Aw Man, I’m on Holiday – Don’t Make Me Work!

Hey, it was nice to be missed at the all new Mediation and even be considered worthy of a missing person alert by Chris Annunziata.

And thanks also to Vickie Pynchon, eleanorburnejones and Tammy Lenski for noticing one voice was missing from the usual chorus.

Well folks, I always try to bring back a mediation story when I go bush – like this one on post-decision dissonance in Fiji or this from ZhongShan, China when we were too stressed to negotiate.

So… there we were – just after Christmas – on a main highway at the bottom of the South Island of New Zealand and crossing a one-way road/rail bridge. I remembered it from my own childhood, when Mum and Dad took us on a road trip in the family caravan.

Yep, you heard right… a one-way bridge on the main trunk road and the train goes over the top!

As we pulled up to the bridge I saw a number of cars in line – we had only seen the odd passing car for the last two hours so I knew something was up – perhaps an accident? Or maybe a tourist panicked as the coal train clattered along above them making the bridge swing wildly from side to side.

I got out to investigate wishing I was a doctor. The cry rarely goes out for a mediator at roadside emergencies, although we probably see about as much blood on the floor as they do.

I eventually got to the head of the line of rubber-neckers half way over the bridge, only to observe two beefy looking high context campers facing each other off, both red from the sun and the conflict – one with his belly protruding under his dirty white singlet, the other in a terry towling hat known to be extinct since the seventies.

They were at a stand off. They had entered the bridge at the same time from opposite ends and neither was willing to select reverse gear. As onlookers enjoyed the sport, it was clear they were growing restless in the heat of the day.

What was to be done?

A couple of people were making half-hearted interventions to make both men see sense, but they were ineffectual.

I diagnosed the situation…nothing, nada, a blank – hey! I was on holiday.

Then, as I stood there, on that old creaking wooden bridge, I had my new year’s eureka moment.

That was the problem. Both men had got themselves into a corner, neither knew a way to put themselves and their overloaded old cars into reverse without backing down.

I was a doctor after all! But how to address this prickly barrier to resolution in the hot midday sun so far from a whiteboard?

So I hesitated – well they were big, fat and angry – and I was only one of those after my Christmas day.

Then I did what any reader of this blog would do… I acted in a decisive and professionally appropriate way.

And that’s my question to you, my dear reader: What did I do to get the traffic moving?


Geoff Sharp

Geoff Sharp is a Commercial Mediator from Wellington, New Zealand. Geoff works in the Asia Pacific region, including New Zealand, Malaysia, Thailand and Pacific Islands. He is a mediator resolving business problems. He is a fellow of the International Academy of Mediators and mediates complex and hotly debated litigation covering… MORE >

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