02 December, 2011

One Flew Over The Parking Lot

Well, okay ... it wasn't just one. It was a flock of about 20, and they were ALL flying over the parking lot.

As I left the building where my afternoon meeting had just adjourned on a somber note, I walked into a windstorm. Literally. The wind was coming out of the west at about 30 miles per hour. With gusts to 40, it was breezy - to say the least. It even blew off the reading glasses hanging from my sweater.

As I grabbed for my glasses, I happened to look up, and there was a flock of crows - probably looking for a tree on which to cling - riding the wind and heading east, the easy direction. All but one anyway.

One was heading west into the teeth of the wind, but I have to admit he wasn't making much progress. He was just sort of hanging there in spite of his furious flapping. Holy black bird! In that wind even I had trouble going west, and that's with feet firmly on the ground. This intrepid fellow had no chance at all.

He would end up somewhere safe, of course, and probably with the others, but I wondered where was he going and why it was so important that he was willing to work that hard against such long odds. Was there something he knew that the others didn't? Was there something that I didn't know? Was this wind due to some massive alien craft to the east sucking up everything within miles? If so, his instincts were outstanding. Head west, fellow traveler.

But that's unlikely, and I'm unlikely to know what he was up to. He was gone by the time I made it into my car, but I continued to ponder his persistence and found parallels with my own behavior and probably yours too. Surely you have "fought the good fight" at some point.

I have been known to resist the prevailing currents and confront the powers that be, but I am usually careful about determining which struggles are worth the effort. After all, I have no interest in tilting at windmills and am more than content to leave that to the Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote. I do recall, however, the time a dear friend, who had been my executive secretary for over a decade, whispered in my ear, "Thom, this one's not worth it." She was right; it wasn't. It was a minor irritation and an argument I clearly would not win. She, more effective than Sancho Panza, had dissuaded me from charging those spinning vanes.

Nevertheless, it troubles me to see injustice sustained or incompetence rewarded. If I can make a difference, I try. Sometimes I have to be content with the knowledge that things are unlikely to change, but if nothing else, by making my concerns public I have preserved my right to say "I told you so."

Then there are those times I stand up just because others need me to be the lightening rod. I'm happy to be that. I've been at this institution for 37 years, and the one thing that is a constant is that no matter how bad (or how good, unfortunately) things are, they will change. If my efforts can hasten that in some small way, then that's great. If not, I can be content with knowing I tried.

So what's the lesson? Well ... like our westbound feathered friend - we should never be afraid to try, regardless of the forces arrayed against us. You can't always win, but you will always feel better about yourself.