There were two big “news items” recently that I found I had a similar reaction to. The first was the national strike at GM last week. I drove to work hearing about how the strike was set to begin at 11:00 am unless an agreement was reached. So at 10:59 I got up and asked people if a bell was going to go off, or what. There wasn’t much activity that I could notice but at the end of the day there were some picketers at the end of the drive into the property. It was nice out so I had my windows down, and when I stopped at the light there was a man standing there with his sign, just a couple of feet away. It was hard not to make eye contact, and he had one of those blue worker shirts on, and reminded me of my Grandpa. I said “Well you got a nice day for this.” He nodded. Light still red, I went on: “I hope it doesn’t have to last too long.” He nodded again. Then the light turned. “I wish you well with it!” I said as I pulled away, and he kind of lifted his sign to me, like a thank-you gesture. The next day at work there were a lot of emails about what to do if strikers tried to block your entrance, and how to avoid altercations with them. There were also emails about how our building would be affected, such as closing down some of the bathrooms, and what to do with your food garbage since building maintenance is union. I was amused to see some ladies in high heels struggling to empty a garbage can into a dumpster. (They had supervisors performing some of their worker’s tasks.) And I wondered whether I as being a SCAB when I walked over to the main garbage area to toss out my apple core, instead of letting it rot in the can at my desk. But then agreement was reached and it was all over. Inventory adjustment? We’ll never know.
The other was the big buildup to the state government shutdown that was going to happen by Sunday night if a budget agreement wasn’t achieved. Since I was up north watching silly movies I was insulated from a lot of that but I still had the sensation of going to bed not knowing if the next morning there would be prisoners out roaming the streets and people not being able to apply for trailering licenses or whatever the impact would be. But agreement was reached and everything went back to normal except for the effects of the new budget on taxes and services.
All of this reminded me of the time we all believed that some BIG thing was going to happen which was Y2K, when all of the computers were going to shut down on New Year’s Day 2000 and so we had to fill our tanks with gas and bathtubs with water and buy cans of SPAM to eat when all of the grocery stores shut down after the looting was over and there would be no food left and giraffes would roam the streets since the gates to the zoo were electronic. I felt a kind of disappointment that I didn’t go to any parties that year because we were sitting at home checking the batteries in our flashlights. And then the next day when Larry said he had to go to the store because we were out of diapers and formula and I had to think what were we doing with SPAM and all this bottled water but not enough supply of the essential things for our baby to last even 2 days? But again, nothing actually happened after all the big buildup.
I am almost ashamed to admit that there is a small part of me in these situations that wants to wish that the BIG THING will happen, and shake everyone up and out of their mundane daily lives and force them to really think about who and what is important, and sort of start over with a fresh perspective, do it all different. This is probably why I even LIKE it where there are disaster drills at work, where everyone has to stop what they are doing and go and stand in the hall, or outside. And there we all are, a big group of carbon-based life forms all equal as we follow the instructions, and no one gets out of it just because they have an office with walls or wear a blue work shirt or have the authority to put a stop to that Engineering Change you were trying to get approved. Just for that moment, we are all just people who just might need each other’s help someday just because they are they ones standing nearby when IT happens.
And of course there have been some actual BIG THINGS that actually have happened such as 9/11 and Katrina that maybe could have resulted in everything changing for the better, but then, sadly, didn’t.
Maybe it’s time I realize that there isn’t going to be some external BIG THING that comes along and rocks my world. But I can rock my own world by making big changes like the ones I have in the last year. And though they don’t affect the collective consciousness of the people around me like I wish something would, I now know that I do have the power within me to shake things up enough to make it all seem different. Even if only just a little.