stare at the flight information display in the airport and see that dreaded word
ďcanceledĒ next to my flight number. My
legs feel rubbery and a sour taste invades my digestive system.
I think that at least the display could say they are sorry, or something
to that effect, but ďcanceledĒ seems to have the same status on the
emotionless board as ďon timeĒ.
again I think of Woody Allenís famous quote that 80% of life is showing up.
In my present situation the remaining 20% is the presentation that Iím
carrying on my laptop computer. Now
it seems that preparing the Powerpoint slides was really the easy part.
The hard part is going to be getting to the particular place and
appointed time to show those slides. Woody
Allen was right; a lot of engineering, like life, is showing up.
marvel at the wisdom of Allenís observation.
How did he come up with this, and how did it get publicized?
Surely he doesnít have a problem in showing up himself. He must have
minions that take him to places that he has to be, and if he doesnít get
there, itís their fault, not his. I canít imagine that he stares at information boards that
say ďcanceledĒ, and waits in long lines of disgruntled passengers to talk
about the hopeless situation to an overworked agent
And even if he doesnít get to wherever he is supposed to be, surely
they will wait for him.
who are rich and famous must have writers following in their wakes at all times.
Whenever they say something quotable, it is immediately written down and
publicized. If you or I should say
something like life being 80% showing up, people would look away in disgust at
our naivety. But when Woody Allen
or Yogi Berra or someone like that says the same thing, people nod their heads
and say, ďYou know, heís got something there.
Weíd better write it down and tell people.Ē
what I imagine Woody Allenís situation to be, most of us are on our own when
it comes to showing up. At both
ends of the trip, we often have support systems that provide emotional and
logistical support. But when
youíre out there in the middle, youíre marooned on an island all by
yourself, and the natives arenít friendly.
You have only yourself to depend upon, and only you will ultimately be
blamed if you donít successfully accomplish the business of showing up.
you would think that if your flight had been canceled, you could blame the
airline when you miss your meeting. Amazingly,
that doesnít work. People think
that itís your job to show up regardless.
You should have anticipated this and gone the night before.
You should have had a backup plan. Itís
your fault. That was 80% of life,
and you failed.
interesting how your own perspective changes when you are at the receiving end
of this showing-up thing. Youíre
running a meeting and an important participant nonchalantly shows up an hour
late, claiming that he or she was caught in a traffic jam. Is your first thought about that bad old traffic jam, or are
you thinking that the rest of got here ok; how come that person couldnít?
thinking the same thing right now about my airplane. I got here in spite of traffic and other hindrances, and it
seems that all the other passengers did too.
So where is their airplane? The
airline probably has some real good excuse, like the airplane got caught in a
traffic jam, but Iím not buying it. If
youíre an airplane, it isnít just 80% of life that is showing up, itís
intricacies of the showing-up dilemma all come to a head in the moment of truth
when you set your alarm clock on the eve of a commitment.
Suppose you have to drive to an early morning meeting.
A lot of complicated risk analysis has to take place in your head.
What experimental data do you have on the probability distribution of
driving time in traffic versus time of departure? What is the effect of projected weather?
And most importantly, what are the expected consequences of being late by
a given amount of time? In the face of these imponderables, you have to make an
irrevocable decision about that uncertain future.
though everyone seems to take your showing-up for granted, I always feel a
certain sense of personal accomplishment and triumph when Iíve arrived at some
particular room in some far away place at the scheduled time.
The rest is downhill. I take
a deep breath, turn on the Powerpoint, and coast.
My 80% of life has already been accomplished.