The Sad Lives of Couples Who Opted Not to Have Kids

The Sad Lives of Couples Who Opted Not to Have Kids

Look at this pitiful couple, just sitting there, with no kids in sight, on a tropical beach, forlornly sipping on frozen margaritas. Think how much happier they’d be accompanied by a hormonal teenage daughter explaining to them how they’ve totally ruined her life.

Look at this pitiful couple, just sitting there, with no kids in sight, on a tropical beach, forlornly sipping on frozen margaritas. Think how much happier they’d be accompanied by a hormonal teenage daughter explaining to them how they’ve totally ruined her life.

My wife and I raised two self-confident, spirited daughters. Now in their late twenties, they both had to overcome several daunting childhood adversities, starting with the fact that one of their parents was a humor writer who had the maturity (on a good day) of an eight-year-old. But out of respect for their privacy, I will not reveal which parent that was.

I often feel deep empathy for all those couples who opted never to have children. Both my wife and I have siblings who sadly made the mistake of choosing a life without offspring. Recently we called my wife’s sister to let her know how sorry we felt about their shortsighted decision to never have kids, but no one was home. Turns out her sister was away with her husband on a two-week Caribbean cruise. She must be living in such denial about their lapse in judgment.

Oh sure, people who opt out of having heirs have time to travel the world, but how can the fleeting pleasures of 14 days in the Maldives in a four-star villa looking out on sparkling blue water possibly compare to the joy of a three-day getaway weekend to Disneyworld in Florida with your kids in July. Trust me, the It’s a Small World ride will totally be worth the 50-minute wait in 97-degree heat and sweltering humidity.

People who have opted out of continuing their lineage don’t know what they’re missing out on. Like the satisfaction of successfully changing an infant’s poopy diaper – 1,465 times over two years. Or the thrill of cheering for your nine-year-old in a rec soccer game when they suddenly realize they just kicked the winning goal – for the other team.

One of the great joys that childless couples miss out on is the thrill of cheering on your young athlete as they compete in sports. Let’s not ruin the moment by dwelling on how much you spent on equipment, travel to out of town matches, and private coaching lessons, okay?

One of the great joys that childless couples miss out on is the thrill of cheering on your young athlete as they compete in sports. Let’s not ruin the moment by dwelling on how much you spent on equipment, travel to out of town matches, and private coaching lessons, okay?

Childless couples will never know the thrill of visiting the emergency room for stitches after your 5th grade daughter came up with the brilliant idea to skateboard down a playground slide during recess. Or the surprise of returning home two hours earlier than you planned on a Saturday night to discover your 17-year-old son hosting a kegger party – with strippers. Thankfully, the neighbors called the cops, who broke it up before things really got out of control.

Some people cite as their reason for not having kids that it would interfere with their career aspirations. As a parent of young children, you can pursue any job you want, just so long as they let you start work after 9am and leave by 2:30, so you can be home before the kids, and your employer lets you work from home whenever one of your kids is sick (which I estimate to be roughly 20% of the time).

Sure, couples who choose to forego having kids usually avoid some minor expenses that the rest of us typically experience. But can you really put a price tag on the delight in your six-year-old’s face when they tell you they got the part of the fourth Christmas tree from the left in the school Christmas play?

I’m not going to lie to you, raising a family can be expensive. People say the biggest purchase a couple makes is buying a house. That couple apparently never had kids. Because the cost of supporting a child to age 18 is equivalent to the cost of buying FOUR houses – except that they don’t increase in value over time, you can’t sell them for a profit, and after 16 years they’ll probably inform you that they hate you. Okay, so having kids tends to be expensive – and exhausting. You can’t put a price tag on your 13-year-old’s beautiful smile. On second thought, you can. That would be $13,000 over six years for braces.

I’m getting the gnawing feeling I’m not making a very good case for having kids. Let me try again. My point is that I love our daughters. They have brought me so much happiness that it’s impossible to quantify. So what if our decision to procreate delayed my retirement plans by 13 years? So what if vacations for 20 years as our kids were growing up would consist of camping in a tent instead of villas in the south of France? So what if every now and then, I found myself getting sucked into shouting matches with my middle school girls about the fact that just because the Millers let their daughter Ashley have a smart phone doesn’t mean you’re getting one…. And so many other precious memories.

It’s true, childfree couples can live more spontaneously, hopping in the car and driving off to wherever their spirit moves them. Meanwhile, we parents spend most of our spare time as chauffeurs, taking our kids to soccer practices, piano lessons, birthday parties, and the occasional ER.

I feel such heartbreak as I gaze at this photo. This couple has no kids. As a result, instead of investing hundreds of thousands of dollars on four years of college for two kids, they blew it all on a new sports car, a vacation home on the Carolina coast and a catamaran vacation in the Greek Isles. So sad.

I feel such heartbreak as I gaze at this photo. This couple has no kids. As a result, instead of investing hundreds of thousands of dollars on four years of college for two kids, they blew it all on a new sports car, a vacation home on the Carolina coast and a catamaran vacation in the Greek Isles. So sad.

Sometimes I envy those kid-free couples being able to purchase a fancy new car every three years. But I’d like to see them try to haul six kids in their shiny red sports car to the mall to see Frozen – for the fourth time, like we can in our 12-year-old Toyota minivan.

What I’m saying is I can think of dozens of reasons not to have kids. But all of those reasons stacked on top of each other still won’t offset the one reason we chose to raise a family: Because for us, having a family was more important than accumulating expensive houses and fancy cars. No regrets.

My life is filled with memories that you simply can’t put a price tag on – like the summer I taught my then 16-year-old daughter how to drive. Okay, technically, you CAN put a price tag on that memory: $1,650 to be exact – the cost to replace the car’s front bumper when she drove it into a landscaping rock next to our driveway on the very same day she passed her driver’s test. Ah, the joys of parenthood.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

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Friends with Boats

Friends with Boats

As I get older, I realize that I don’t need a lot of “stuff” anymore. I want to slow down And enjoy the simple pleasures of life – like lying on the bow of this powerboat … off the coast of Barbados. I’d even settle for the coast of Nantucket. I’m not picky.

As I get older, I realize that I don’t need a lot of “stuff” anymore. I want to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures of life – like lying on the bow of this powerboat … off the coast of Barbados. I’d even settle for the coast of Nantucket. I’m not picky.

As I look back on my youth, I realize that I’ve matured. I’m no longer that zealously ambitious young man who craved fortune and “the good life.” If I’m being totally honest, I was overly pre-occupied with acquiring “stuff.” I wanted a nice car; a house I could be proud of. I now laugh with embarrassment thinking about this younger version of me, who wanted to “have it all.”

Now that I’m older and wiser, I appreciate that what’s important in life is not simply acquiring material possessions. My, how shallow that sounds to me now.

As I’ve aged, my values and priorities have evolved. What truly matters in the autumn of my life is the joy of developing meaningful, lasting friendships. I want to meet friends I can talk to openly and be vulnerable with, sharing my deepest, most personal hopes and fears. A sensitive, honest person who will be there for me in good times and bad. And last but not least, someone who – how can I put this politely – owns a nice boat.

Young people often talk about having “friends with benefits.” But they have it all wrong. It’s much better to have friends with boats. Now that I’m retired, it really doesn’t matter to me in the least how much stuff I possess – just so long as I have a few close friends… with fast-moving watercraft. If they had a 30-foot sailboat, I would certainly consider becoming their casual acquaintance. But I’m really looking more for a friend with a powerboat with at least 350 horsepower. I really don’t care if it’s Bayliner, a Sea Ray, or a Chris-Craft, just as long as it can reach a top-end speed of 70 mph or faster.

Recently, I met an amiable fellow. We started to hit it off. And from what I could tell, he seemed to share my political beliefs. Sadly, he only owned a dinghy, which he mainly used for crabbing. It could barely reach speeds of 10 mph. Needless to say, that’s not what I’m looking for in a friendship these days. So, I had no choice but to ghost him.

Why this obsession with friends with boats? I live on an island. My wife and I moved here to be near the water. You may be asking yourself, “Hey, if it’s so important, why don’t you buy YOUR OWN boat, Tim?” What a stupid question. Have you seen the cost of high-quality boats lately? Not to mention the cost of mooring, insuring, and refueling them.

I’m looking to make a few new guy friends. All I care about is that they’re a good person, willing to be vulnerable and open, and own a sweet-looking ride like this guy has. Woah! Is that Mont-Saint-Michel ahead? Dude, will you be my friend?

I’m looking to make a few new guy friends. All I care about is that they’re a good person, willing to be vulnerable and open, and own a sweet-looking ride like this guy has. Woah! Is that Mont-Saint-Michel ahead? Dude, will you be my friend?

I’ve done some research and discovered that boat owners have no lives. That’s because they spend all their free time working on their boats. Here’s just a sampling of the typical tasks they do after every time they take their boat for a spin:

Top off the oil, if needed; wash the hull and deck; check the engine, battery, propeller, electrical lines, and bilge pump to ensure all components are working properly. Oh, and don’t forget to inspect the engine mount screw clamps to make sure they’re secure. While you’re at it, you might want to take a look at the water intake to be sure it’s not blocked. And be sure to flush the engine and propellers to eliminate saltwater, sand, dirt and other debris. I’ll skip the other 27 steps you need to do EVERY TIME you take your boat out, because I almost fell asleep after that last sentence.

So, no, boat ownership is not for me. Let some other sap pay $100,000 for a 40-foot cruiser. I just want to spend some quality time bonding with them… on their 40-foot cruiser – ideally while eating fresh lobster and chowing down on a tasty cheese platter and Godiva chocolates. (Not the dark chocolate, please.)

Perhaps you are that sap, I mean, fine person. If so, I want you to know that if you feel a need to drone on endlessly about how hard it is staying on top of all the regular maintenance needed to keep your boat in working order, as your new best friend, I’m willing to listen. Oh, and I’m a size LARGE, in case you need to know my lifejacket size for when you take me out water skiing.

I’m looking for a new friend. I’m not picky. I mean, it’s not like the only kind of people I seek out as friends are rich people with yachts that comfortably seat eight. Who do you think I am, anyway? No, I’m willing to keep an open mind. I’d even consider starting a friendship with someone who only owns a Jet Ski – but only if you have two of them. I’m not riding tandem behind you. Buddy, you need to give me some space.

I thought I could be friends with this guy. But I was wrong. He’s a very nice person And very smart. Just one problem. He owns a gorgeous 60-ft. sailboat. I was looking for a friend with a powerboat. Sorry, buddy. It just was never going to work out.

I thought I could be friends with this guy. But I was wrong. He’s a very nice person And very smart. Just one problem. He owns a gorgeous 60-ft. sailboat. I was looking for a friend with a powerboat. Sorry, buddy. It just was never going to work out.

I’m still looking for that close friend. I know they’re out there. Perhaps you could be that special person. If you think you might like to become my friend, just email me a photo of you with your boat – or a photo of just your boat is sufficient, actually.

But perhaps I’m being a little unreasonable. After all, why should I care whether a person has a boat or not? I mean, that sounds rather superficial, doesn’t it? Okay, on further reflection, I don’t care whether or not you have a nice boat. I’m more than willing to make friends with non-boat owners – assuming they have their own private plane, that is.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

Tim Smiling at Safeco Higher ResPS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Subscribe to my View from the Bleachers YouTube Channel and request notifications to see my latest videos. And check out my latest book, THE SECRET TO SUCCESS AND HAPPINESS (is Something I Have Never Figured Out. I’ Open to Suggestions).

Please Stop Saying “At YOUR Age”

Please Stop Saying “At YOUR Age”

Just because I’m well into my sixties, it doesn’t mean I’m old. I am up to date with technology. I’d never use a rotary phone like this – mainly because the numbers are too small for me to read anymore.

Just because I’m well into my sixties, it doesn’t mean I’m old. I am up to date with technology. I’d never use a rotary phone like this – mainly because the numbers are too small for me to read anymore.

Dear People Under Forty,

As a person who is now officially a “senior citizen” (I had my Medicare birthday four years ago), I have a small request. Whenever we’re together could you please refrain from inserting into our conversation the phrase at your age?”  When you say these words, what we people in our sixties hear is, “Dude, I can’t believe how old you are, not to mention frail, out of touch, mentally incompetent, and likely to tip over at any moment. Do you need to go pee?”

It’s true, I can no longer legally call myself middle-aged. But no, my kids aren’t currently scoping out nursing homes in my area – not yet anyway. I still play racquetball, tennis, and pickleball (although, admittedly I’ve never played any of them very well). I’m still totally capable of driving, building a deck, and setting up a wireless network in our house – okay, my wife just pointed out that perhaps I should just stick with the part about still being able to drive, in order to sound credible.

You don’t have to explain what every trendy new slang term means. I know what “Karen” and “Bye Felicia” mean. And when you roll your eyes, smirk, and say to me, “Okay Boomer,” I get the dismissive dig. I may not be totally woke, but I’m not in a coma, okay? I still use the Internet daily and have even written about the threat of AI. I still text, although on principle, I insist on using proper punctuation. (I confess I have no idea what the octopus emoji means.)

You don’t need to slow down your speech – or TALK LOUDER. My hearing is fine (even if my audiologist says I‘ll probably need hearing aids in three years).

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard younger people make reference to “at your age” in their conversations with me – mainly because my memory isn’t what it used to be. I played pickleball the other day. I lunged for a shot and lost my balance briefly. My partner, a young guy around 35, pulled me aside and counseled me, “Tim, at your age, why not let those shots go. You don’t want to hurt yourself.” I just smiled and said, “Thanks for your concern.” There was no way I was going to give him the satisfaction of knowing I’d just pulled my calf muscle.

At my last annual physical, I told my doctor of my plans to ski again this winter. He looked at my knees, both of which underwent total knee replacement surgery three years ago, and he said, “Tim, at your age, I’m not sure it’s wise to keep skiing, given the stress it puts on your knees.” Of course, most of my friends have been suggesting for years that I give up the sport, but only because they all agree I’ve never been a very good skier and I keep holding them back.

The other week, I was pushing a wheelbarrow heavily loaded with dirt up a steep incline in my backyard. A well-intentioned neighbor in his early forties noticed me straining under the weight. He said, “Hey, Jonesy, are you sure you should be pushing something that heavy at your age? Here, let me get that for you” And only because I didn’t want to offend him after his kind neighborly gesture, I reluctantly agreed to let him take over and push that load up the incline for me – along with the next 20 wheelbarrow loads. Hey, I’m lazy, not stupid.

Not long ago, I bought a gas grill at the hardware store. The sales clerk, who could not have been more than 25, informed me it takes about an hour to assemble. Then he added, “For $25, we can assemble it for you. At your age, perhaps you have better things to do with your time.” Because I’m a mature, emotionally secure man, I chose to ignore his subtle insinuation that I was too old and feeble to assemble it myself. Nevertheless, I decided to pay the $25 to have them assemble the grill, because, frankly, at my age, I have better things to do with my time.

People have often told me in recent years, “Tim, you still look good for your age.” What they’re really saying is, “Tim, if you were middle-aged, I’d say you look terrible. But seeing as you’re an old guy, you’re not looking so bad. I mean, congrats on still having most of your hair and teeth.” Um, thanks for the compliment, I guess?

I’m sure that in most cases, these younger people are just trying to be gracious or helpful. They’re probably concerned that people my age may need a little assistance or perhaps we’ve lost a step mentally and may not catch on quite as quickly as we used to. But the fact is most people in their sixties are far healthier and more mentally and physically fit than younger people realize. Did you know that George Clooney is 62? Kevin Costner is 68. Pierce Brosnan is 70. They’re all studs. And they’re all way better dressers than I am. I’m not sure what my point was. Oh right. Being over sixty doesn’t mean you’re slowing down. We have a lot to live for – unless your name is Rudy Giuliani, in which case, yeah, it would suck to be old like you.

L to R: George Clooney (age 62), Kevin Costner (68), and Pierce Brosnan (70). All these men are well over sixty but they’re all still vibrant, handsome, and sexy. And my wife would trade me in for any one of them in a heartbeat.

L to R: George Clooney (age 62), Kevin Costner (68), and Pierce Brosnan (70). All these men are well over sixty but they’re all still vibrant, handsome, and sexy. And my wife would trade me in for any one of them in a heartbeat.

Let me ask you a question, my millennial friends. How would you like it if I routinely made comments to you like, “Hey, at your age, you might want to think about setting aside some money for a down payment on a house rather than putting it all into the latest cryptocurrency fad.”  Or maybe, “At your age, perhaps you should think twice about getting into that car and driving, given the six beers you’ve consumed in the past two hours.”

Just something to think about… that is, if you’d like to have a shot at surviving until you arrive at my age.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

Tim Smiling at Safeco Higher ResPS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Subscribe to my View from the Bleachers YouTube Channel and request notifications to see my latest videos. And check out my latest book, THE SECRET TO SUCCESS AND HAPPINESS (is Something I Have Never Figured Out. I’ Open to Suggestions).

 

 

Unattainable New Year’s Resolutions: A Guide to Setting Impossible Goals You’ll Never Achieve

Unattainable New Year’s Resolutions: A Guide to Setting Impossible Goals You’ll Never Achieve

Every year it’s the same list of New Year’s Resolutions. Lose weight, exercise more, cut out sugar, be nice to my wife. And every year, I give up – usually by National Bird Day (observed each January 5th) So, this year, I’ve decided, if I’m going to fail, why not shoot for the moon. Go big or go home.

Every year it’s the same list of New Year’s Resolutions. Lose weight, exercise more, cut out sugar, be nice to my wife. And every year, I give up – usually by National Bird Day (observed each January 5th) So, this year, I’ve decided, if I’m going to fail, why not shoot for the moon. Go big or go home.

Ah, the dawn of a new year, a time when gyms are filled to capacity with resolution-makers who, let’s be honest, will probably give up on their newfound commitment to fitness faster than you can say “cheeseburger.” I thought about it. Why limit myself to mundane resolutions like losing weight or eating more vegetables or saving money, which we all know are goals I’m almost certain to bail on by National Chocolate-Covered Cherry Day? (Yes, that’s an actual holiday, observed every year on January 3rd.)

So, I’ve decided, if I’m going to draft a list of goals I am sure to fail at achieving, why not set my sights on ridiculously lofty goals that are so absurdly unreachable my friends will be quietly asking each other if they should stage an intervention.

In the spirit of chasing the impossible dream, here are some resolutions I just came up with as I was flossing for the first time in months this morning (another new year’s resolution I just started which I’m pretty sure I’ll give up on by National Whipped Cream Day, on the 5th of January). Feel free to try out some of these resolutions yourself. If you share these with your friends, I’m confident you’ll be the talk of the neighborhood – even if that talk is mostly just confused head-shaking and worrisome murmurs about your loose grip on reality.

Resolution #1: Disprove the Existence of Mars

Sure, scientists and astronomers might claim that Mars is a real, tangible planet in our solar system, but who are they to tell us what to believe? Like we EVER landed a man on the moon. Yeah, right! Just because we all learned about Mars as one of the planets back in 7th grade – and the fact that you can see it in the night sky – doesn’t prove it exists – any more than the claim that some broccoli tastes good. Now that’s a total hoax.

This year, I resolve to single-handedly disprove the existence of Mars – and maybe Halley’s Comet while I’m at it. Armed with a telescope I bought on Amazon and a copy of Photoshop, I’ll present a compelling case that what we’ve been calling “Mars” is actually just a cleverly staged Hollywood set two blocks west of the Denny’s on Hollywood Boulevard. Get ready to rewrite thousands of high school science textbooks, McGraw Hill.

#2: Make At Least Three New Robot Friends

Sure, my current human friends are great, but after a while, they can get so annoying – especially when they start talking about all their bodily parts that are starting to fail. If I hear one more cataract surgery story, I think I will lose it. I think my energy will be better spent this year on making robot friends, because, let’s face it, in six months they will all become our overlords, thanks to AI.

Imagine the conversations my robot pals and I could have – discussing the intricacies of artificial intelligence, debating which Terminator movie was the best (IMHO, Terminator 2: Judgment Day wins hands down) and learning exactly how and when I will become their eventual human slave puppet.

In 2024, one of my resolutions it to make new friends, like this dude. After all, eventually, as Artificial Intelligence gets increasingly sophisticated, it’s just a matter of time before robots like this guy rule the world. I figure, might as well start getting on their good side now, while I still have time.

In 2024, one of my resolutions is to make new friends, like this dude. After all, eventually, as Artificial Intelligence gets increasingly sophisticated, it’s just a matter of time before robots like this guy will rule the world. I figure, might as well start getting on their good side now, while I still have time.

#3: Convince Everyone I’m the Rightful King of Denmark

Why should I settle for being just another face in the crowd when, honestly, I’d be much happier retaking the throne of Denmark? My resolution will require a few weeks practicing my Danish on Babbel and taking a crash course in Danish history – I just read that Denmark is the longest uninterrupted monarchy in Europe. Who knew?

Then I’ll need to craft an elaborate backstory involving a secret twin brother, who I’ll call Henrik – unless you think the name Lars is more believable – who stole my birthright. I will proclaim that henceforth all Danes must address me by saying, “Hail to the King!” – I mean “Hils Kongen” (since I suspect most Danes prefer to speak Danish). I will award myself bonus points if I can get everyone to bow (or curtsy) when I enter the room – assuming the security detail grants me access to my Palace. I think they will. I’m told I have a friendly smile that disarms people.

#4: Learn to Speak Whale

Move over, Dory! This year, I’m resolving to master the art of speaking whale. While marine biologists might scoff at the idea that whales have a sophisticated language, I firmly believe that if I’m allowed a sufficient amount of practice, positive encouragement, and bait fish as a reward, I can become fluent in whale-speak in weeks. Who knows, maybe I’ll even land a job as a whale translator if they ever decide to make a 4th Free Willy sequel.

#5: Time Travel Back to Prevent Lincoln’s Assassination

Why settle for mundane time management goals when I can set a target for mastering the ultimate time-management challenge: time travel? This year, I am boldly declaring my intention to hop into a makeshift time machine I will construct from parts from a 1982 DeLorean and a sextant from a 100-year-old British three-mast schooner. Then I’ll set my time travel coordinates for Ford’s Theatre, April 14, 1865.

I’ll hide behind the curtains and shoot John Wilkes Booth, thereby saving Abraham Lincoln from his fateful encounter with a bullet and re-writing history. Sure, it might create a few wrinkles in the space-time continuum, but at least I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I changed the destiny of our nation forever and forced countless scholars to rewrite their treatises on Lincoln’s final days.

Here I am working on my time travel machine. I figure sooner or later someone will figure it out. Why not me? If I succeed, I plan to save Lincoln from assassination, prevent the invention of the nuclear bomb, and stop whoever had the lame idea to create the fidget spinner. Such an annoying gadget. Seriously.

Here I am working on my time travel machine. I figure sooner or later someone will figure it out. Why not me? If I succeed, I plan to save Lincoln from assassination, prevent the invention of the nuclear bomb, and stop whoever had the lame idea to create the fidget spinner. Such an annoying gadget. Seriously.

I just hope I figure out how to get back safely to the present. I’d hate it if they put me on trial for the murder of John Wilkes Booth and I ended up having to serve the rest of my life in prison – never able to enjoy a Dominos Meat Lovers pizza again – oh, or see my kids. That, too.

So, go ahead. Make your resolution to lose 15 pounds – for the 12th year in a row – or to finally learn how to play guitar or save $500 a month – like you’ve never once done since you became a parent. While you’re working on your newfound commitment to eat more green vegetables and give up ice cream, I’ll be hard at work learning whale-speak, making new robot friends, and saving our country’s greatest president from an assassin’s plot.

We both know we will both fail miserably. But I will have far more interesting stories to tell about my efforts to achieve my lofty goals – especially when my family members ask me to review my list during a mental health evaluation with a team of psychiatric professionals. I’m not worried. Maybe they can help restore me to the throne of Denmark.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

Tim Smiling at Safeco Higher ResPS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Subscribe to my new View from the Bleachers YouTube Channel and request notifications to see my latest videos. And check out my new book, THE SECRET TO SUCCESS AND HAPPINESS (is Something I Have Never Figured Out. I’ Open to Suggestions).

My Sliding Doors Moments

My Sliding Doors Moments

A scene from the film, Sliding Doors, with Gwyneth Paltrow. The film alternates between two storylines, one in which she barely makes the train, the other in which she misses it.

A scene from the film, Sliding Doors, with Gwyneth Paltrow. The film alternates between two storylines, one in which she barely makes the train, the other in which she misses it.

I’ve had two sliding doors moments in my life. One of them, quite random, initiated a chain of events that led me to my future wife. The other one literally saved my life. (Because sometimes people can’t tell when I’m making things up, let me assure you that all of the following is true.)

If you’ve never heard of the expression “a sliding doors” moment, it refers to a situation in which seemingly inconsequential moments nonetheless alter the trajectory of future events and a person’s destiny. The term entered our lexicon thanks to the 1998 movie, Sliding Doors, in which the film alternates between two storylines, showing two very different paths the central character’s life will take depending on whether she catches a train or just barely misses it (as the doors slide closed in front of her, hence the title). The difference is a split second of timing. The impact is life changing.

For me, the first one happened in November 1974, during my second year of college at the University of Virginia. My hometown is Albany, NY. But my father wanted a family Thanksgiving in Columbus, Ohio that year, since a couple of my siblings lived there, along with many other Jones clan relatives.

But I wanted to spend Thanksgiving in Albany, to visit my mom (my parents were divorced) and some high school cronies. My father went so far as to book my roundtrip airline reservations from Charlottesville, VA, to Columbus, changing planes at Dulles Airport outside of DC.

The sliding doors moment was my decision to disobey my father’s stern directive to fly to Columbus for the holiday. He was furious that I chose to ignore his command and fly home to Albany instead. This decision saved my life. That’s because the TWA return flight my father had booked me on after Thanksgiving, from Columbus to DC crashed, killing everyone on the flight. Had I obeyed my father’s orders, my life would have come to an abrupt end in a remote hillside in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, at the age of nineteen.

Top right: The actual New York Times front page headline. I was supposed to be on that plane. But I changed my mind.

Top right: The actual New York Times front page headline. I was supposed to be on that plane. But I changed my mind.

The other sliding doors moment led me to my future wife. It was December 1982. I was living in Columbus, having just recently completed my graduate MBA program at Ohio State. I had no job prospects lined up. For several months I had resorted to waiting tables at a seafood restaurant just to cover my rent, while trying to find someone – ANYONE – who might be willing to interview me. My prospects appeared bleak.

I flew home to Albany for the holidays to visit my mom, my sister, and some friends. While there, I stopped by my father’s law office (he had passed away three years prior, but one of his partners continued the practice).

Just as I was leaving, heading for the elevator, a well-dressed older man was about to enter the office next door. One of the people in my father’s law office, a receptionist named Hazel, introduced me to this man. She casually shared that I was a recent MBA graduate and was looking for work. I exchanged banal pleasantries with this stranger, shook hands, and moments later, I got on the elevator, never giving our fleeting visit a second thought.

I flew home to Columbus to resume my flailing job search. The next day, I received a call from Hazel. “Tim, you’re never going to believe it, but remember that man I introduced you to in the hallway as you were waiting for the elevator? He wants to interview you for a job!”

What? Seriously? We had barely spent sixty seconds together in the hallway. He couldn’t know anything about me from that blip of an encounter. How could he possibly want to interview me? That random stranger turned out to be Terry McGuirk, the president of Knight Ridder Broadcasting, one of the largest chains of radio and TV stations in the country. He was a heavyweight in the industry. But why would he want to interview me for a job? I was unemployed and had no relevant work experience.

It turns out that he was looking to hire a full-time advertising sales rep for the local Albany Knight Ridder television station. And I guess I made enough of an impression that he wanted a closer look. He had no idea that I was not living in Albany. But I was not about to tell him that and blow this opportunity. So, I flew back to Albany two days later for the interview with Mr. McGuirk.

During our interview, this sixties-ish distinguished-looking executive had to take a phone call from one of his managers. The man on the other end of the line turned out to be someone named Al Gillen. Mr. McGuirk mentioned to Mr. Gillen that he had me in his office, and Mr. Gillen told him to say “hi” to me, like he knew me. Huh? Al Gillen knew who I was? I was totally confused.

After the call was over, Mr. McGuirk explained that this was the same Al Gillen who had been a client of my father’s many years ago when Al Gillen had been the president of a TV station in Flint, Michigan. (My father represented several TV and radio stations in his management law practice.)

Fast forward to December 1982. Al Gillen was now the president of Viewdata Corporation of America, a Knight Ridder subsidiary which was on the cusp of becoming the bleeding-edge forerunner to America Online (AOL) and a pioneer in online information technology that would eventually pave the way for the Internet. Terry McGuirk was Al’s boss.

I turned down Mr. McGuirk’s job offer to sell advertising for his Albany-based TV station. I didn’t want to move back to Albany. But I sent a letter to Al Gillen, asking for an interview for a position – heck, ANY position at Viewdata.

I never did get a chance to interview with Al Gillen. But he passed my resume on to one of his frontline managers, a nice man named Bennett. I flew down to Miami Beach, Florida, where Viewdata was based. Bennett and his manager, a woman named Jan, both interviewed me. The next day, they offered me a job as an account executive. Two months later I drove to Miami, with my pet rabbit Boose and my parakeet Bob in the back seat. An exhausting (not to mention smelly) 18-hour, 1,200 mile journey.

Little could I imagine that a chance encounter in a hallway with a total stranger that began with a handshake would start a chain of events that would lead me to my wife.

Little could I imagine that a chance encounter in a hallway with a total stranger that began with a handshake would start a chain of events that would lead me to my wife.

A week or so into my new job, I was sitting in the lunchroom. Across the table was an attractive redheaded woman with a vaguely foreign accent. I could not place it. She turned out to be from Canada. Little did I know at that moment that three years later I would ask this person to be my wife.

On that December afternoon in 1982 in Albany, had I left that office just 30 seconds sooner or just 30 seconds later, I never would have crossed paths with Terry McGuirk in the hallway. I would never have been sitting in his office at the precise moment he received that call from the president of Viewdata. And I never would have found myself sitting across the table in that Miami Beach lunchroom from my future wife.

[Author’s note: If you’ve had a sliding doors moment, share it in the comments section below or email me at timjones@viewfromthebleachers.net with your story.]

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

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