Mind Matters: Does being first appeal to you?

When Aldi opened a grocery store in my home town, Armidale, a few years ago, I wanted to be its first customer.

So I arrived at the store 70 minutes before opening time.  I reckoned that other people with the same goal would show up 60 minutes before opening time.

I was right about others coming an hour before opening.  They saw me there with my nose practically glued to the door.

When the door finally opened, I rushed in, went to the nearest checkout counter, grabbed a Snickers bar, and bought it.

There I was – Armidale Aldi’s first customer.

I read a few months ago that an organisation was taking applications from people who want to be in the first group to go to Mars.

The trip would be one-way.  They would remain on Mars, staying alive as long as they could.

I thought about applying.  If no one would miss me, I would go for it.

Would you go – to be among the first humans to set foot on another planet?

Why do people want to be first?  To climb Mt Everest.  To reach the South Pole.  To sail round the world solo.  To walk on the moon.

I attribute the urge to my genes.  My ancestors went here, there, and beyond.

They likely moved from Africa to northern Asia long ago. Some then moved to an area that is now part of Lebanon.

They left there for the US, and I later came to Australia.  

That was a lot of moving on!

I believe that my go-go genes are still around because my ancestors moved from bad situations to better ones – surviving each time they made a jump.

They were intrepid, hardy, and lucky. Maybe I am too.

Even though I am not going to Mars, I still want to be first at this or that. 

For instance, I recently eyed a high-technology ride right here on earth: a ride on a self-driving bus that has been practising driving its route in Armidale.

I took a tearoom poll and found 100 per cent willingness to risk life and limb to be the first passenger.

But only I showed up at the first stop on the first day of operation.

The ride was slow but exciting.

I waved at individuals on the sidewalk as if I were the King of England.

You could be the first to do something. What?

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England.