A man was walking to the most important job interview of his life, and he was going to be late. He had chosen to walk because the offices were a few blocks from where he lived, and besides his wife needed the car in the morning to drop their daughter off at school.
But he had not anticipated having to search for one of his shoes while getting dressed. The night before, his two-year-old daughter was playing with the shoe and she hid it beneath the couch. By the time the man found it, he had fifteen minutes to make a twelve minute walk.
He briefly considered taking the bus or a taxi. But traffic was horrendous. He walked at a fast clip, moving with enough pace to make good time but not enough to break a sweat.
The meager funds of his bank account kept popping up in his head. This job would change that. If he got it, this job would secure his family’s future for life.
Up ahead, he saw the building where the meeting would take place. Just a few more blocks to go, and he would be there. Perhaps he would make it on time after all.
Stopped at a crosswalk, he remembered that the boss’s assistant, an old college friend of his, had warned him that the boss, as a rule, did not accept people who were even one second late. A person’s punctuality tells you all you need to know about them.
As the crosswalk changed, the man attempted wedge himself between a small crowd of people to get ahead. But in doing so he accidentally nudged an elderly woman into the street. The elderly woman tripped, and while she was on the ground a taxi came speeding through and crushed her skull.
No one in the crowd had been able to identify who exactly had done the nudging that sent the elderly woman to her death. Plus, they were all gravely concerned and in shock, crowding around the elderly woman’s body.
The man thought about the right thing to do. If he stopped to help, he would surely be late and out of a job. But he didn’t have a job now, so what was the difference? The difference was that he was broke, and his family required shelter and clothing and food. But if he stayed behind, wouldn’t the boss forgive him? Wasn’t this perhaps the world’s only legitimate excuse for being late? Well, on the other hand, couldn’t the boss say, “If you wanted it bad enough you would’ve chosen the interview”? Yes, that’s right. Life is a series of choices. And those who succeed are the ones who make the choices that are best for them, ignoring all other possibilities. Besides, the elderly woman was…elderly. She was on the way out anyway. Albeit accidentally, all the man did was speed up this process, and as horrific as her death was, wasn’t it at least quick and painless? Wasn’t it better than dying of dementia or heart disease or cancer? Of course it was.
When I die, the man thought, that’s how I hope to go, swift, easy, painless.
Satisfied, the man continued on his way. A few steps further on, he stopped. How does God fit into this? He looked up at the sky, a clear, beautiful sky. God was watching. God was always watching. God must have seen what had happened.
Well, the man reminded himself. That’s nonsense. I don’t believe in God. I never have. What nonsense to think of Him now.
Satisfied, again, the man continued on.
He arrived at the building, took the elevator up to the 60th floor, checked in with the receptionist, and took a seat in the waiting room with a full three minutes to spare.
Soon the boss came out and greeted him. They entered the boss’s office. As the meeting went on, the man grew more and more confident and comfortable. At one point, he crossed his right leg over his left and laughed uproariously at one of the boss’s jokes. The boss’s smile ceased suddenly as he stared with rapt attention at one particular spot on the man’s right leg.
“What’s that there?” the boss said.
The bottom quarter of the man’s grey slacks was unmistakably stained red. In a jolt of panic and with a bolstered confidence, the man said, “Oh, that, funny story. I was almost late to this meeting because on the way over…”
Several times throughout the man’s story, the boss’s office phone rang. And each time it rang the boss ignored the call and told the man to continue his story.
After finishing his story, the man leaned back, satisfied, once again, that he’d done the right thing. The boss’s face showed unmitigated confusion.
“Are you saying that–” The Boss’s office phone rang, cutting him off. “Excuse me,” he said. He pressed a button on the intercom and said, “What is it? I’m in a meeting.” And a voice came through the speaker, saying:
“Sir, I’m sorry to interrupt. But it’s an emergency. Your mother, she…”
Written at 11:41 at night, in my office, in Agoura Hills CA.