My dad was a police sergeant during the Blitz.
One morning after an air raid, the Inspector called him into his office.
He said “Sergeant, I want you to go over to the school, someone’s seen an unexploded bomb fall on it”.
Dad said “Isn’t that a job for the Bomb Disposal squad, sir?”
The Inspector didn’t like Dad.
He said slowly and sarcastically “I’ll tell you what’s a job for the Bomb Disposal squad, sergeant. You just go to the school and locate the bomb, and don’t come back until you’ve found it.”
As Dad was leaving, the Inspector called after him for everyone to hear “Do you think you can handle that, Sergeant?”
So Dad got a police car and a driver and went over to the school.
He was fuming with anger all the way.
When he got there he couldn’t see any holes in the school roof.
He couldn’t see any holes in the ground nearby either.
Then he noticed a puddle in the middle of the playground.
So he took off his boots and rolled up his trousers.
He walked into the puddle and started feeling around with his feet.
Sure enough there was a hole in the middle of the puddle.
He’d located the bomb.
Now at this point what he obviously should have done was call the Bomb Disposal squad.
But he was still seething with anger over what the Inspector said.
So he took off his helmet and his tunic and got down on all fours.
He reached into the puddle and down the hole.
He could feel a round metal object down there.
Again, the smart thing to do would have been to call Bomb Disposal.
But he didn’t do the smart thing, he was still too angry.
He started scraping away the dirt around the object.
Then he reached in with both hands and lifted it out.
It was an unexploded anti-aircraft shell.
The only sensible thing was to put it down and call Bomb Disposal.
But he was still too angry.
He got into the Police car with the unexploded shell on his lap.
He told the constable “Any bump could set this off so drive as slowly as you can back to the police station”.
And, knowing what Dad was carrying, the Constable drove very slowly.
When they got to the station, Dad walked in, carrying the unexploded shell very carefully, like a baby.
He walked into the Inspector’s office, put it down in the middle of his desk and said “There you are sir”.
The Inspector went white.
Dad always laughed when he told the next part of the story.
He said he’d never seen anyone move as fast as the Inspector: out of his chair, out of the office, out of the police station and up the street as fast as his legs would go.
And Dad shouting after him “What do you think Sir, should we call the Bomb Disposal squad now?”
Even when I was young I used to wonder about that story.
He could have been blown up at any moment for something as trivial as getting his own back on a man he didn’t like.
It turned out okay, but look at what he stood to lose.
For me it wasn’t a sensible bet.
But the truth is, the emotional side of our brain overrides the rational side.
That’s Kahneman’s ‘Type One’ thinking overriding ‘Type Two’ thinking.
The instantaneous reaction overriding the slow incremental logic.
As communication professionals, that’s what we must remember.
Desire (emotion) always comes before permission (reason).