I had a plan
I planned to write a blog post about truth being sometimes stranger than fiction and true crime podcasts and real-life stories that inspired crime novels. (I was yesterday years old when I learned that actress Gene Tierney’s tragedy inspired Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Cracked from Side to Side.) I would have had the post up around lunchtime for you to enjoy with your midday meal. Then I stepped outside.
I’m in grad school right now (Graduation’s in June! Yay!), working on a Master’s. Today was seminar day, one of the few sessions we’ve had in-person this year. Three hours indoors engaged in vigorous academic debate. Class ended, I gathered my books and headed for the exit. I stepped outside and, whoa.
Good thing no one was behind me
I stopped because I faced one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve encountered all year. A tree branch laden with pink blossoms drooped slightly, bowed under the weight of its floral burden. The branch’s arc framed a view of flags fluttering against a clear, oh-so-blue sky. A majestic bridge traversed calm water in the background. At that moment, only good existed in the world. My plans changed. Instead of true crime, I decided to write about the view, the beautiful Spring day, and chance.
A change in plans can lead to unexpected consequences. For me, the results of today’s change were minor—my post is late. Sometimes, however, the unexpected consequences, good or bad, matter. What if you take Elm Street instead of Maple and avoid a vehicle collision that you’d otherwise have been involved in? What if you take Sycamore Lane instead of Cherry and drive right into the sink hole that just opened?
We can’t worry about those what ifs all the time in real life. If we did, we’d become paralyzed with fear and indecision. Part of living means taking your chances. But imagining “what if?” is what storytellers do all the time. What if you get off the plane at the last minute?* You end up with the first movie in the Final Destination franchise. What if you miss your train? You end up with one of the storylines in Sliding Doors. What if you catch your train and sit next to a charming young man or friendly older woman? You get Strangers on a Train or The Lady Vanishes. And if you happen to look out the window? Girl on the Train, Rear Window, or a host of other stories, results.
*Famously, missing a plane in real life, reportedly based on a coin toss, saved Tommy Allsup’s life. Sadly, it cost Ritchie Valens his.