The fork in the road

Published 7:25 pm Friday, March 15, 2019


Coffee with Mimi

Literature, history and comedy routines are filled with references to roads and paths. Robert Frost is frequently cited at graduations. For sure, you can confidently work in “The Road Not Taken,” and at least one in the audience will nod his or her head in agreement that there are options and big choices ahead.  Likely, it isn’t a graduate enlightened at that moment. 

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A cute line, in a lighter mood, advises when arriving at the fork in the road, pick it up.  Pretty practical advice, but also a good deed. You may prevent another traveler from unexpected detours when experiencing a flat tire — after encountering the wayward fork.  A bit full of metaphors should you wish to work through it.

In a more serious reference, Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 BC and perhaps changed the course of history in the modern world. Yes, the Rubicon is not a road, but it was a significant moment when a direction was chosen. It may be a good thing that not many of us will face such a monumental path decision.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every fork in life’s road was clearly defined, and the end of the route was well marked?  In the old days, before Google maps, travelers could get nifty packets of guidebooks from travel agencies, which provided you with everything you needed to know on your journey.  Where is the closest gas station?  What curiosity is at just the next exit?  Billboards with enticing advertisements were also helpful.

Every birthday, anniversary and life milestone reminds us of all the roads taken.  While celebrating the birthday of a much younger friend recently, the conversation turned to choices I had made in my life. I suppose it was because I was clearly the elder statesman in the room.  We all laughed as I recounted some stories, which eventually brought me to this point and place.  As one in the crowd said, “The rest is history.”  Not a Caesar moment, but true and significant for me.

I walk to and from work as often as the weather and my schedule allows.  One would think there can’t be many different ways to get from point “A” to point “B”.  Getting home would be the same, but reversed, “B” to “A”.

Well, oddly enough that is not the case.  I didn’t make a conscious decision when establishing my path, it just happened.

You see, my office is in a park setting and there is a monument at the corner entrance to the property.  The monument is surrounded by a circular planting bed and a walled sidewalk goes around the whole thing.  It’s like a pedestrian roundabout with entrances/exits at each quarter turn.  If it were a vehicle intersection, the traffic pattern would be predetermined by the state highway department: But, it is not.  Going through is completely up to the traveler.  Unlike vehicle traffic, a walker can actually enter this space from a couple different paths and there are no restrictions as to which way you go around the monument.

No matter where I enter the roundabout, the exit to my office is at the same place.  If it were a clock, I can enter on the sidewalk at 3 o’clock or 6 o’clock, but always exit at noon.  Over time, I realize I always choose the 6 o’clock entrance and walk in a clockwise direction.  I can’t say it is a choice now, it is a habit.

When I started to think about it, I realized I don’t reverse the route when going home.  At the end of my day, I do enter at noon, but exit at 3 o’clock.  What is that about?  Is there some message  nudging my subconscious?  My chosen path through the park to work is a few steps longer than my path out of the park at the end of the day.  I do contemplate the day’s events as I go in, but wind down, and out, on the way home.   

Insignificant?  Maybe. Habit? Surely.  Worth thinking about? Yes.

In the big picture, totally insignificant.  But, do I treat important issues so casually, driven by a thoughtless wandering to and from?  Do I accept the axiom that this is the way it is always done? 

Be aware. Any sentence which starts with the phrase, “We always…,” should be reexamined frequently. We may always, but those around us may not always want it and are giving in to save the bother of rocking my always. It could be easier to do it the same way, you always know where you come out.  Afterall, it hardly will end up like the Rubicon crossing.

We always go to the beach at Thanksgiving.  Maybe we will next year.  At the end of the road is a family gathering, the path to that doesn’t have to end at the beach. This year, we will go somewhere else.  Who knows what we’ll discover?

It’s a good thing to nudge the brain out of its habits.I’m working on going in and out of the roundabout on a varying path.