This is not a dress rehearsal

Once my father was in New York City walking through a bustling subway station during the morning commute. It was a sea of business attire and cortisol, moving frantically like a run of salmon swims upstream to spawn. A man stood on the edge of the flow, ranting and raving.

“This is it, people! This is your life!” he preached to the businessmen, stock brokers, secretaries flooding past him.

New Yorkers are used to this sort of thing. This guy’s presence didn’t even register. But my father thought to do something which apparently no one else did: He stopped and actually listened to what the guy had to say.

“This is actually happening, people. Right now, you are living your life! You have arrived. Hello! This is not a dress rehearsal… This is the real deal!”

My father stood there for a while, just staring at this guy. He was making some excellent points, after all. And the man continued delivering his subway sermon, desperate to communicate the seemingly obvious news which apparently no one had bothered to read. The guy must have been wondering: How can I say this any clearer? Why is everyone going about their life as if everything is so completely normal?

I suppose that whatever genetic mutation caused my father to depart from the herd and be able to hear sanity, wisdom even, spewing from the mouth of this wild-eyed, subway-station orator must have been passed down to me because, even as a little kid, I was wrestling with these very same questions. And I hadn’t even been to Manhattan yet.