Priorities When Caught In An Unguarded Moment

As mentioned in the previous post, I am at present a retail gladiator. I say gladiator mindful of Russell Crowe’s line “are you not entertained?” from Gladiator, as keeping the customers outwardly amused while privately musing as to whether it would be socially acceptable to grab a sword and start swinging away is one of my standard go-tos when dealing with less than pleasant people. It’s my second go-round in this realm, with a decade plus stint as cubicle warrior sandwiched in-between. Each field has its advantages and disadvantages. A thumbnail sketch states the office world, with extremely few exceptions, pays much better than retail but is far more stressful.

Working in retail does provide multiple opportunities for observing the human condition, be it pleasant or sub-optimal. An interesting vignette transpired earlier today. Young mom was on phone chatting away, accompanied by her son whose age appeared to be somewhere in the two to three year old range. The son suddenly took off and toddled out the front door, which empties onto a sidewalk and from there straight into a quite busy parking lot. Mom, after futilely calling for her son to return to her side, almost nonchalantly made her way outside after him … without missing a beat in her phone conversation. All ended well as fortunately the boy stopped just outside the front door, where his mother grabbed him with her one free hand (the other firmly clutching her phone) and led him back inside the store. Maybe I missed it, but given the situation with its multiple very bad possible conclusions, her actions seemed more than a tad too casual for my taste. But what do I know; I’m just a retail worker.

The scenario brought to mind assorted reactions to Kobe Bryant and his daughter’s death, along with others equally loved by their families and co-workers, this past Sunday. For many the grief is understandably palpable; a teammate / friend / hero suddenly gone even as he was just beginning a highly successful and admirable second chapter of life. There are those taking the moment as painful illustration of how we need to cling to one another, forgiving each other our trespasses as none of us have any guarantee of life tomorrow on this planet. Others see his passing as an excuse to exploit the accompanying grief, selling and reselling anything connected to him at exorbitant prices. Still others are in part or whole unmoved, choosing to focus on the negatives in Bryant’s life while ignoring the good. Of such is human nature.

The question has come up as to whether this is the most shocking sports death in recent history. More than a few have opined no, Dale Earnhardt’s death in the 2001 Daytona 500 was more shocking. This may seem strange to the NASCAR unaware, given the sport’s inherent danger for every driver at every moment of every race. However, one may forget that at the time of his fatal accident Earnhardt was revered by many as an almost mythical figure, one who would always circumvent the odds and never succumb regardless of the circumstances. To see video of the crash now, one would think while it was a hard hit, that would be that and Earnhardt would shortly emerge from the infield care center with a few choice words for his fellow drivers and genuine joy that Michael Waltrip, driving for the team he owned, had won the year’s biggest race. He never made it to that point.

Life is uncertain, unknown, a pre-measured quantity of which no Earth dweller knows the length. Is it not good then to enjoy what can be enjoyed, such as the competition and skill that is NASCAR? The true NASCAR fan watches not for the accidents, but rather the carefully executed pass; the battles for position on the track, the strategy of pit stops. We can all think of things to complain about all night when it comes to the sport, most of the kvetches well justified. But is it not better to celebrate we are here to kvetch? And, in light of this, perhaps kvetch less? All of us will one day face being caught in an unguarded moment. Live and love accordingly.