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John Vorhaus Headshot

Life Is a Luxury Crisis

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Woody Allen said, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans." That phrase has echoed in my mind for a week now, ever since the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano erupted, grounding every plane in Europe and stranding travelers in such godawful hellholes as Amsterdam, Paris and Rome. I have sympathy for the stranded travelers, I do. Those not on expense account certainly faced some hardships. For instance, anyone who's ever spent five minutes at London Heathrow Airport would not relish being stuck five days in the place. But the thing that struck me - and, in a perverse sense, amuses and delights me - is how in control of things we think we are, only to wake up one morning to discover that, well, we're not.

No sooner has the ash abated and the planes retaken the air than, of course, the blame game has gotten underway. Passengers blame the airlines. Airlines blame "overly cautious computer models," and everyone wants someone to pay. Pay for their time, inconvenience, frustration, and rage. Would everyone be happier if air traffic control had been underly cautious and a couple or three planes had dropped out of the sky? No, of course not. They'd just play a different blame game, that's all: "How could you let us fly? How could you be so reckless?!"

Sure it's bad news that people got stuck in airports, but I think we're losing sight of something here. If you're stuck in an airport, it means you're privileged enough - wealthy enough - to be flying from point A to point B in the first place. That sets you apart from the almost seven billion who never get closer to an airplane than glimpsing one as it flies overhead.

This reminds me of a story...

A lifetime ago, I was a "suit," an executive in charge of production for a television network in Sydney, Australia. This was my first suit job and I took myself very seriously, especially every Wednesday, when I flew from Sydney to Melbourne to look in on the taping of a sitcom there. Being a suit, I got to fly first class, which made me feel like a very big deal indeed. This one time, though, I was late getting to the Melbourne airport for the flight home, my first class seat had been given away, and I was directed to a seat in the rear. I grumbled about for the entire one-hour flight, and was grumbling still when I got back to my (furnished, penthouse, downtown) apartment in Sydney. My wife asked me why I was in such a dark mood and I said in my most petulant schoolboy voice, "I had to fly coach."

I can still see my lip pouting now.

I was having a luxury crisis. I'd been victim of something that seemed like a bad thing only because I generally had it so good. My wife thoughtfully refused to talk to me until I came to my senses.

I'm not saying that being stuck in Heathrow for five days is a luxury crisis. I'm just saying that it's a good idea for us all to remember who we are and where we are. We are human beings, blessed with life on earth. And while we may be, as Agent Smith avers in The Matrix, just a virus on this planet, yet we are here, enjoying the precious gift of life. We seem to be having a pretty good time. Even those stuck in Heathrow.

Examples of luxury crises abound, but I can't seem to think of any just now. I wonder if you can. When was the last time you got bent out of shape over something that only seems unlucky because of how lucky you are in the first place? Post your instances here, or over at my other home, radarenterprizes.com.
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I'm starting a collection.

More later, -jv