Changing Landscapes

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli
Changing Landscapes

I once rear-ended a city bus. During the busy morning commute. A city bus filled with passengers. Passengers that all had to evacuate the bus upon my rear-ending of it, and wait on the sidewalk for a new bus. Passengers that waited while glaring silently, or not so silently, at me, as I also waited for the police and the insurance and the blah blah blah that follows such an event. One woman said to me incredulously “Why did you do that????” Why, indeed.

Now, in my defense, allow me to explain.

It was at the height of the steady humming morning commute. I had stopped to get gas. Pulling out of the gas station, I had to make a right and then immediately get over in the far left lane to make a left at the stoplight just a hundred feet or so away. This was a busy three-lane road, so I was poised to make my right turn out of the gas station at precisely the moment that I could get across all three lanes simultaneously. Are you with me? So, I was poised to turn right, but I was looking left. Looking, looking, looking, for my moment. As I waited and looked, a city bus passed in front of me. I registered this fact, but didn’t register it. Because right after that, I got my moment. All lanes were clear and so I gunned it out of the gas station… and straight into the city bus. The city bus that, once it had passed me, had promptly stopped at the bus stop located right in front of the gas station.

So, incredulous lady who wondered aloud just why I did that: I did that because I had a clear plan of action that made sense if all traffic flowed as I assumed, expected, and thought it would. I did that because I was so confident in my plan that I looked left while I was turning right and didn’t think to check the landscape and make sure nothing had changed before I started to move. I did that because I didn’t count on the bus.

I didn’t count on the bus.

Maybe you’ve had such a moment, too. Hopefully it hasn’t involved a bus-load of people glaring at you in the middle of a busy street. But a moment where you had a plan—a plan that would work if everything went as it was supposed to, if everyone involved moved where they were supposed to, did what they were supposed to, said what they were supposed to. A plan that went disastrously wrong because someone or something did not actually do what they were “supposed to” at all, and because you didn’t check the landscape to notice the changes. A plan that went wrong because you didn’t change it to accommodate what was actually happening rather than what you wanted to happen.

If I had only looked right, just once, before entering traffic that day, I would have seen that my plan needed to change, that the bus had changed the landscape. If I had looked right, I would have made the changes that would have allowed for: me getting to my scheduled destination unshaken and on time, the people on the bus having a completely uninterrupted (albeit much more boring) ride without any delays to their day, and my car (and ego) not being a bit smooshed.

Are you looking out for the landscape changes ahead?


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Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.