Most hotel rooms have printed instructions on how to handle natural disasters.
In California, I’ve read what to do if there’s an earthquake.
In Oklahoma, I’ve seen instructions on responding to a tornado.
In eastern states, I’ve prepared for a hurricane.
But in Fairbanks, Alaska, I learned what to do in case of a moose.
I was amused when I saw the sheet on the desk in the rustic-themed room at the lodge where I had come to train the hotel employees. “Clever,” I thought. “They wrote this up to sound like those other ones.” I assumed it was just a joke, because a moose seems pretty harmless when the only one I’ve ever known was one on TV named Bullwinkle.
I walked the paper down to the front desk.
“What’s this about?” I asked.
The desk clerk looked at me as if I was from another planet. “It’s about what to do if you meet a moose. Just like it says.”
“So, do you get many of them around here?” I was expecting a chuckle or two as we shared the joke.”
“Every couple of days,” she replied without expression.
“Really. They wander around the parking lot out here. That’s why we have the low door frame here at the entrance. Once in a while, they try to come inside.”
“Is it a problem if you run into one?” I asked.
“Could be. If they decide they don’t like you, they can do some real damage to your body parts.”
“So what are you supposed to do if you meet one in the parking lot?”
After a brief condescending stare, she pointed back to the paper I was holding. “Read that,” she said. “That’s why we put it in the room.”
I was a little embarrassed, but now I was curious. I looked down at the simple instructions:
If you encounter a moose, stand behind a tree.
“Are you serious?” I asked?
“Yep. You don’t want to run away, because they’ll catch you. But if you stand behind a tree, it’s hard for them to get around it with those big antlers. Pretty soon they’ll get tired of trying and wander off.”
It didn’t seem very noble to imagine my obituary: “Killed by a moose.” So I decided to follow her instructions.
I went for a long, frigid walk that day. The scenery was great but it was hard to relax. I was always looking for the nearest tree, just in case I caught the interest of something large and brown. I didn’t want my obituary to read, “Man Who Ignored Instructions Killed by Moose.”
I didn’t see any moose that day – which was a little disappointing, since I was so well-prepared. And I haven’t been able to use my new-found knowledge in Southern California.
I did learn three valuable lessons that day:
- I don’t know everything.
- Assuming that I know everything can get me in trouble.
- It’s good to listen to people who know what I don’t.
Today, I’m going to listen to the people I encounter. I’ll listen to my wife – and my kids – and my grandkids – and my barista – and the person I’m sitting next to right now on a plane.
I just might learn something that I’ll need if I encounter a moose today.
What trouble could you avoid today by listening to someone with experience?