Yesterday, my roommate Kevin and I went to Chicago to see Wicked…o.k….we were supposed to go into Chicago to see Wicked. We had the perfect plan. We would meet at the train station on this, the first 60 degree, sunny day of the Chicago spring that we both had free, and take a leisurely train ride into the heart of Chicago. Then we would go to the Borders bookstore next door to the theater, put our names into a drawing to get two seats near the stage for the amazing price of $25 each, and enjoy a great evening of quality entertainment and roommate bonding time.
Then I decided to iron my shirt. Who wants to go to a classy theatrical show with a wrinkled shirt, especially when it’s already a faded second-hand Banana Republic polo with a couple iron burn marks? This decision, small as it seemed, made me miss the train by about 3 minutes. The next train to Chicago was leaving two hours later, and that would have been too late for all practical purposes. What could have been an exciting afternoon in Chicago was then down shifted to a spur-of-the-moment matinée at the mall just up the street from our apartment, and followed by a quiet evening at home.
Kevin and I joked about the butterfly effect that my barely missing the train would have on the rest of our respective lives. Maybe Kevin was supposed to meet his future spouse at that night’s Wicked performance. Maybe this night would have been the least attended Wicked show ever and we would have been assured tickets had we made it. Maybe the train would have mechanical problems halfway between a couple stations and the passengers would be stranded for a couple hours. Maybe Kevin was supposed to be working on his portfolio and this was a sign. People are always reading into things, stargazing, wondering how their lives would have been different had they made different choices. Yesterday I was reminded that our choices are like dominoes: they affect our future, other’s futures, and the other choices we will have as a result.
The previous night, I had watched this year’s best picture, No Country for Old Men. Among other things, it’s an intriguing exploration of chance, choice, and destiny. Each central character seemed to embrace a different philosophy of life in regard to the role of choice. There was the trailer park cowboy who believed he had complete control over his destiny, the disillusioned sheriff who seemed to believe his destiny was set in stone and he was simply living it out to its inevitable conclusion, and the psychopathic killer who believed the power of choice was swallowed up by the rule of chance and as a result was as stable as a gust of wind.
Funny thing is all three seem to resonate with my unfortunate experience. I had the choice to leave 3 minutes earlier and probably would have made it had I done so, but I also could have made it had the stop lights or any other chance aspect of my trip to the train station gone differently. Yet, apparently I was destined to miss the train, because that’s what happened. Guess I got a good lesson in philosophy, but I’d trade it to have seen Wicked instead. If you see me with a wrinkled shirt the next time you see me, you’ll know why.