Timing Issues

So this could've happened: Almost nineteen years ago two good friends have plans to hook up in Chicago where one of them lives. Luckily, the person flying out bought tickets ahead of time because, with her older model car being in the shop for yet another costly repair, she wouldn't have been able to afford the trip otherwise. The visit is immediately buoyed by the news that the Chicagoan can get tickets to the Oprah Winfrey Show for either that Monday or Tuesday. At once, the excited guest exclaims, "Tuesday it is!" Both of them are thrilled by the prospect of making the scene at the Queen of All Media's studio. The day arrives, they wait in line to get in, and that's when they hear it... the unmistakable buzz. Seems virtually everyone around them is breathlessly reliving the events of yesterday's show, the one where Oprah gave each member of her audience a brand-new Pontiac G-6 sedan. The infamous "You get a car! You get a car!... Everybody gets a car!!" show. The rueful visitor can't help but recall her fateful words, "Tuesday it is!"

Hey, and this might've happened: Almost twenty-two years ago a handful of friends vacation in the Big Apple, taking in all that The City That Never Sleeps has to offer. They attend a Broadway show, a Yankee game in the Bronx, enjoy a harbor cruise at sunset, partake in the cultural exhibits at various museums and enjoy some of the finest dining New York has to offer. With a birthday for one of the friends--whose constantly kidded for being the early morning riser of the group--looming, the others offer to pick up the tab for an elegant breakfast at Windows of the World, on the top floor of the World Trade Center with its breathtaking views of Manhattan. The honoree, when given the choice of Monday or Tuesday morning, immediately blurts out, "Monday, it is!" That event goes down as one to remember with great food, tasty mimosas, a magical atmosphere and, best of all, the comaraderie of dear friends. The next morning, they all watch in horror from afar as the Twin Towers collapse into a pile of rubble on September 11, 2001, the guest of honor's refrain, "Monday, it is!", echoing in their ears.

Of course, while these are just fictional scenarios we all know that varying degrees of good or bad timing occur throughout each one of our lives on a continuous basis. For all of us it's no secret that timing is kind of important. This notion can be traced back to ancient Greece and Aristotle, who wrote "Opportunity is a matter of time." Some say this was a product of his frustration at having woken up late, missing the "all you can eat" Sunday brunch at the local Agora, but that's never really been substantiated. Many years later, the phrase was updated by the Roman philosopher, Seneca, when he claimed “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” This was a guy with a daily wake-up call, so no brunches missed there (plus he'd also carry food in his toga, just in case). In the end, these two phrases have evolved into the adage, "timing is everything."

So here's the thing about timing: It's frustrating in that it somehow seems like we should have gotten a handle on it by now. I mean, we have a million case studies over centuries to cull from and yet none of us have a clue. Not really. One minute we're patting ourselves on the back for our ingenious foresight into knowing when to pull out of the stock market the next we're beating ourselves up for not taking the surface streets instead of the freeway (and for realizing the stock market is suddenly flourishing). Timing is something we really can't practice unless you're a baseball batter trying to better sync up to the pitcher's fastball or a comic learning to take a breath in between punchlines or literally the person who operates the stopwatch during swimming meets. And it's never gonna change because when we talk timing we're talking the past and it's only after something has transpired that we can make an assessment whether it was bad timing or good timing.

Indeed, timing is so important that it helps define certain people's lives. Abe Lincoln is widely considered one of our greatest presidents and yet his choice of a Friday night play instead of, say, Thursday or Saturday kinda gives the impression he sucked in the timing department (and not just because the cast was really off their game that night). Also noteworthy, timing scenarios can contain both good and bad elements, as was the case in the winter of 2009 for the passengers of Flight 1549 flying out of New York and hitting a flock of birds just after take-off--some serious bad timing--forcing the pilot, Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger to ditch the plane in the neighboring Hudson Bay. Turns out having Sully in the cockpit--some serious good timing--resulted in everyone being rescued, adding credence to the theory that if a situation contains both bad and good timing it's probably best the good timing occurs in the end.

And finally, timing is always in play, no matter the situation. Even now, for instance, as I'm writing this, I'm very cognizant of the fact that I'm getting closer to the right place to sign off. Here, in fact.