Monday, October 22, 2007

Butterfly Wings

I've always been enthralled by the idea that a butterfly in Brazil flaps its wings, and boom! it starts a series of events that leads to a tropical cyclone in Japan. One small, seemingly innocent motion can lead to catastrophic events. On the upside, a kangaroo hopping (do they hop?) - okay, bounding through the Outback, turns left instead of right, and ends up finding water and food, whereas the other route would have lead to death. Better even yet - an unsuspecting sophomore girl accidentally sits down next to a really cute guy in the first day of Soviet History class at UW Madison and 7 years later they're happily married living in Florida (who would have known the fall of the Soviet Union would have lead to meeting my soul mate?) A bit generalized, I know - but I think the science of possibility behind that is fascinating. We can also liken this to our training, racing, and experiences while doing these sports. We work harder on running speed and boom! we become faster runners (or at least that's the hope). Or we miss an important swim, and our schedule is altered for the next few days because of it. Very small scale compared to the butterfly and tropical cyclone, but interesting connections nonetheless.

I got to experience this Butterfly Effect first hand today, albeit to the misfortune of my little sister.

6:00 am. It's raining. It's early. It's dark. And I'm tired. Sound familiar? Just another typical Monday morning. My really annoying alarm went off, signaling it was time to get up and crank out my swim. Gotta tell ya - the motivation was just not there. I was tired from the previous day's long workout, lack of sleep, and food-induced coma that I lapsed into last night after eating large quantities of the stuff. So there I was, laying in bed, fat, happy, content just to stay there. Without really thinking, I shut off the alarm and just told myself five more minutes, and then I'll get up. By the way - this phrase, is truly the kiss of death for me. Within 5 minutes, I'm usually fast asleep, heading back to the warm and fuzzy place, drifting between dreamland and the sound of the rain on the window. I COULD put my swim off until later.... By the time I wake up, it's usually too late to get in the full swim, and I have to do it later in the day. It still gets done, just the timing is off. AND I feel slightly guilty all day for opting to sleep instead of swim and get it over with. Today it didn't seem to bother me, so I drifed off. Fell back asleep. And according to Nathaniel, was snoring just a bit. Let's be honest - women don't snore. We breath heavily. But I was breathing some pretty intense zzzzzz's, and he didn't want to disturb me because he knew how exhausted I was after yesterday's workout. At that point, my am swim seemed almost a no-go.

But... somewhere in Brazil, a butterfly had flapped it's wings...

Around 6:00 am Central Time (Pensacola), 7:00 am EST, my little sister was on her way to work, proud of the fact that she had made a little extra time on a Monday morning, when things are usually more stressful and hectic than normal, and was going to make a quick stop at a Starbucks on the way. She's a big fan of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, and had a pretty strong craving. Now just to clarify - she's not a bad driver. Just a little erratic. And a little insecure. But then again, she's living in a new city, learning he way around, and Monday morning rush hour traffic in Philly can be scary enough even for the veteran drivers. So there she is, feeling really great about her effort to get out the door in time for coffee, feeling turly like the productive and a great employee she is, and she follows a bunch of other cars (all taking left handed turns, mind you), into a Starbucks parking lot. She avoided the drive-through, because the line was enormously long. Now these parking lots, as you know, aren't all that big, and there was only one space left - so her car was parked right in front of the store, in full view of all the customers and staff.

The butterfly had evidently caused a wind shift...

Then she saw the flashing blue lights in her rear view mirror. And then the entire police car, blocking her parking spot. She panicked, frozen in her seat as the officer got out of his squad car and approached her drivers side window.

The wind shift caused a flock of tropical birds to take flight off the Atlantic Ocean...

She rolled down her window, terrified, and shaking. But also completely aware of the curious stares emulating from the Starbucks that she was intending to frequent. She could almost taste her Pumpkin Spice Latte, but was too nervous to really think about it.

The Tropical Birds caused fish in the Gulf to scatter...

"What's the matter?" she quavered, unaware of any traffic violation she had just committed. Her lights were working, she wasn't on the cell phone, she was following the line of traffic, she was obeying every traffic law she though possible.

The fish that scattered, caused a mixed migration of fish up the Gulf Stream. Noticeably absent were flounder fish...

The officer proceeded to ask for her license and registration. She searched.

The lack of flounder fish hit the Philadelphia area pretty hard...

She searched again, this time anxiety creeping up with every passing minute.

No flounder in Philadelphia meant that Officer Ima Jerk didn't get to indulge in his usual breakfast of fried flounder, bacon, eggs, toast, coffee, and donuts.....

The officer returned to his squad car with just her license to look up and verify her insurance, licence, and registration.

No fried flounder meant that Officer Ima Jerk was cranky all day.

Karyna waited. And waited. And waited. And what started as a small crowd of onlookers enclosed in the glass Starbucks coffee house, soon became a bit of a crowd. Imagine a giant fishbowl, with all sorts of fish staring out at you, clutching miniature Starbucks cups, just watching. And watching. Karyna got more and more embarrassed. And more and more worried.

Now that Officer Ima Jerk had started the day off on the wrong foot, he was determined to make as many other people as miserable as he could. Which meant TICKETS!

Finally after a 20 min wait, the officer returned to Karyna's car and told her that she had made an illegal left turn into the Starbucks parking lot, and that if she had gone through the drive through (15 minute line, no thank you!), none of this would have happened. And then he gave her a $20.00 ticket and reminded her to "drive safely" next time.

At this point, my poor sister was beside herself. You can imagine that those 20 minutes went by really slowly, and the scenarios that she kept playing over and over again in her head about what the consequences to her actions would be got increasingly more dire as time passed. So what could have been a major incident, was only a small one in the eyes of the law. But Karyna was beyond terrified and traumatized.

Little sister in Philadelphia gets her first traffic violation and calls older (sleeping) sister, who should have been awake and getting ready for her swim, in Pensacola. At 6:20 am CST.

My phone rang and jerked me out of the comfort of sleep. At first I though something was really wrong. The only other time it rings early is to announce that someone has died. Because I'm out of the house so often, training or working, and Nathaniel isn't always here, my parents and sister have gotten into the habit of making bad phone calls early in the morning. At this point, whenever the phone rings before sunrise, I figure that some thing's up. Another Pavlovian response.

I tried to not sound too groggy as I answered Karyna's call. But it didn't matter - I could hear the edge to her voice and knew that something was up. In her first statement to me, she blurted, "I cried in front of the police officer who gave me a ticket!"

I laughed - probably not the best thing to do, but being in similar scenarios myself a few times (not revealing how many, thank you very much... okay, only 3 - knock on wood!), I've cried a bunch. It worked two out of the three times, but one guy was pretty serious. Apparently in North Carolina, they don't like it when out of statelicense plates tags have expired (by 4 months). Oh well - I had been meaning to get it replaced anyway... But back to Karyna - we talked about it, laughed a little, and I asked an important question (more as an ice breaker than anything else): "Did you get your Pumpkin Spice Latte?"

"No," she replied, in a very small voice.

"Where are you?" I asked. In lieu of what had just happened, I didn't think that her driving a stick shift, in a new city, in rush hour traffic, while talking about a traumatic event on the cell phone was exactly the safest thing to do.

"I'm still the the parking lot. Everyone is STILL looking at me. The officer just drove off and is writing another ticket."

I closed my eyes, trying to figure out what to say. "It'll be okay. These things happen - he probably woke up on the wrong side of bed. This isn't a big deal, but I know it's scary that it happened." I plowed on, now wanted to let her get a tearful word in. "Why don't you go to a different Starbucks, where no one saw what happened. And, you deserve a treat. Get the biggest Pumpkin Spice Latte that you want, and top it off with a scone, or piece of muffin, or yummy brownie, or something. You've earned it!" When in doubt, a little comfort food never hurt anyone.

She sounded a little more enthusiastic. In a few minutes she seemed back to her old self. I promised to call her later on, so she could get back to driving (safely), and I could still in my entire swim workout. It would be a close call, but I might as well try. I was up. And I would have felt twice as gulty if I had gone back to bed a third time.

In spite of sleeping late by 20 minutes, and then consoling my sister for 15, I still made it to the pool and managed to squeak out my workout with about a minute or two to spare. I don't usually like to cut it this close, but hey - if Karyna wouldn't have called, there's no way that I would have awoken in time for this workout.

So there you have it. A butterfly flapped it's wings and I got in my swim. And Karyna got her Pumpkin Spice Latte, a fancy breakfast treat, and discovered a new Starbucks, closer to where she works (it just took a teensy-weensey-little-off-the-record-ticket to cheer her up). I just hope the poor cop can be happy and gets his fish, or whatever he needs. Maybe a Pumpkin Spice Latte or a great swim workout would make his day a bit brighter. It worked for the two of us.

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