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Split Second Chances

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli
Split Second Chances

My favorite job of all time happened in the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school. I worked at the gas dock of the local marina; the job involved sitting in a chair all day, soaking up the sun, and taking the money of the people who motored up in their boats to re-fuel. (As a self-serve station, I didn’t even have to pump the gas!)  For a high schooler, it was heaven.

However, a moment during that summer has forever been sealed in my mind. I had a direct supervisor whom I adored—he was kind and gentle to all, somebody who understood teenagers and probably let us all off the hook more times than he should have. (I recall getting caught sleeping more than once in the shed on the gas dock.   I mean, c’mon, those shifts started early, at like 6 am… who’s boating at 6 am?? But I digress.) Anyway, this outstanding gem of a man decided to leave because the “big boss” was a complete a##, to him and to all of us, and eventually I guess he decided enough was enough. On the day he left, I remember  vividly that he walked down to the dock to say goodbye, and I just SAT IN MY CHAIR. I didn’t even stand up! Didn’t offer him a handshake or a hug. Nothing. This man who had been so kind, standing there saying goodbye, and I gave him hardly more than a “see ya later.” Arg. What an idiot.

I know it’s a small thing, but it’s a BIG thing. I never forgot it. And I hold it in stark contrast to another moment that occurred in college.

My senior year of college I was the assistant director on a production of the play “Summer and Smoke.” As the AD, my job was to offer notes to the actors after each rehearsal, and one of the actors, a graduate student, absolutely could not contain his disdain of me, his dismissal of my notes, his general loathing of the entire process. It was miserable. Many months later we ran into each other in the hallway of one of the campus buildings and I’m sure his blood pressure went up as much as mine did as we both mumbled our hellos and kept walking. All my old miserable feelings were rising to the surface when suddenly he walked back to me. He apologized for his behavior during that time, saying that he had a lot of things going on in his life and he had taken it all out on me. And then he walked away. I was stunned to the point of tears.

I’ve never seen either gentleman again after those two moments—one, an opportunity missed; the other, an opportunity taken. But when I think about them side by side—these two split seconds in time, these two seemingly insignificant moments that still hold space in my brain and in my heart more than 20 years later—I am reminded just how significant those split seconds in our life really are. It’s easier to let them pass us by… but how much richer when we grab hold of them.

Will you encounter any split-second opportunities today? Will you grab them, or let them go? 


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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.