Saturday, June 4, 2011

Choices

My favorite line in the Clint Eastwood movie “Dirty Harry” is this: “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” While I do believe most people can ultimately surpass limits, there are limits and it is healthy to know what they are. If you know how far you can go with something or know potential results of certain situations, then you can choose how to deal with it.

I had to make an interesting and frustrating choice today. First a little background.

Many of us Boomers, currently ages 47 to 65, are unprepared for navigating life in 2011. Our parents could not possibly have anticipated the complexity we face in every aspect of our lives, and could not teach us how to effectively deal with everything from quantity of product options to population density to traffic congestion to technology, career and relationships. In their era, the husband worked, the wife stayed home, the man had the same job for most of his life, their house had one phone, one television, one family car. A serious traffic jam might result in the man’s usual 15-minute morning commute lasting 25 minutes instead; that’s assuming he even used his car and not public transportation. Things were simple. Stress was something you read about in a magazine, not something you experienced. Parents didn’t prepare us for this stuff.

Another bit of background even my closest friends probably do not know about me: once or twice a year I have a stress-related temper meltdown. The result is not pretty. It has never and will never involve any violent behavior, but I do yell a lot and I’m sure my blood pressure goes up and I cannot possibly be my usual pleasant self. That’s embarrassing but it’s safe for anyone around me. Fortunately only two people in my entire life-long circle of acquaintances has ever seen me in that mood because I refuse to show it.

Today I had one of those meltdowns.

I was supposed to meet co-workers at the concert I mentioned yesterday. The venue is a stadium and our parking was at another site a couple of miles away. Instructions were to park in a specific place and take a shuttle bus to our site. My main job was to have been recording fans talking about music and the performers at the concert. I might have also had the chance to interact with some of the performers and I was set to meet with a former co-worker who now has a job with the headliner of this event. In other words, I was to spend hours interacting with people in my usual pleasant manner.

But I got lost trying to find the parking lot. I mean lost in a jungle of complicated, sometimes unmarked roads, in a neighborhood I used to know well before most of it was torn down and replaced with things I have never seen. I followed directions, looked for landmarks, turned on many different streets, snaked back to my starting point numerous times, texted and called at least two people who I knew were already at the destination, blah, blah, blah. Stress mounting, me screaming at the interior of my car, getting more and more frustrated, stressed and angry. After more than an HOUR of this crap (I’m getting angry telling this story. Geez!), I decided to get on the road and return home. Then I realized I was back where I started so I tried a few more turns, thinking maybe I was close to the spot. I still couldn’t find it. More stress. More yelling at my steering wheel.

A man’s got to know his limitations. I know from past experience that if I finally did find the parking spot and proceeded to my work site, I would not have been in the right frame of mind to interact pleasantly with people. I made a choice: find another way in, perhaps an expensive way like paying the exorbitant public parking rate at this venue, then knowing my story-telling habit, telling everyone I met my horror story, basically spreading negativity all over an otherwise positive place … OR, get on the highway and return home, open a bottle of wine, calm down … and write this story.

My parents never had to make choices like this. If they were still alive and I told them this story, they’d look at me like I was crazy.

So there you have it. Of course now I have to figure out a way to explain this to my co-workers on Monday. I texted the boss and another friend earlier, explaining that something came up and I couldn’t make it there. My story Monday will be something almost that non-descript. This situation is what it is and for me, it is embarrassing. But the choice I made to stay away from people was the right choice and I’d do it again. But next time I have to go to this venue, I’m following my original instinct and taking public transportation. And leaving much earlier to avoid all possible obstacles.

Those will be the right choices that day as these were today.

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