One minute I was playing squash with my friend Barry, the next minute I was totally in the dark. I could see nothing. Just blackness. Nothing. What happened?
The weird thing was that Barry saw the same thing.
We had been playing squash on the fifth floor of a club in New York City on a hot summer day in 1977. It was a very active game and we were in the middle of a rally when everything went dark.
We had no idea what happened. Sometimes people would flash the lights to let us know our time was up. They would then open the door and light would flood in. Not this time. This was a black swan event, completely unpredictable.
We were closed in a room with smooth walls all around, not even a doorknob on the door to let us in and out. We had left our things at the bottom of the front wall. We had no idea what had happened; but we knew step one was to get our stuff and find our way out from the four dark walls. Our squash court had become a cell.. in pitch-black darkness.
When you are in total darkness, you need a plan to get out. It is your illumination even in the dark. The key is information.
We knew the front wall had a tin skirt at the bottom to signal low shots. We felt around for the tin and found our stuff.
Knowing this was the front wall, we knew the opposite wall was where the door was. We turned and walked with arms out until we found the back wall, then felt around for the small recess where the door latch was.
We were out. But new problems confronted us. We had to find the changing room in the dark. We knew the direction and were able to get to it. Other people were having the same predicament and reported to us that there was a blackout and power outage that seemed to affect the entire city. All of Manhattan was blacked out.
Our next hurdle was to find our lockers. Good spatial memory helped us there, but another obstacle came up. How do you open a combination lock in total darkness?
Luck was with us. It was still the era of smokers and someone had some matches. Soon everyone in the changing room had burnt fingers and open lockers.
We made our way down the stairs to the street. It was filled with pedestrians. No traffic lights, no subways running.
New York City went completely dark for a couple days.
Since it was a hot summer night, restaurants and bars were literally giving away their food and drink because their refrigeration failed. In some areas, the blackout led to a party, in some areas it led to riots and looting. Where we were was more inclined to party.
No matter how you find yourself in the dark, there are hurdles to overcome. Whether it is increasing sales, determining optimal spending levels, or the kind of risks you are facing. You need perseverance, a plan, the right tools, some luck and a positive attitude to arrive at a good solution.
Alan, you have a neverending supply of fascinating stories and an amazing ability to remember all the details and tell them so well. I am in awe of such skill. Steve
Steve, Thank you for your kind comment, Alan
So true Alan, perseverance and confidence, in a crisis situation, will only lead to a calmer outcome!
Thanks, Tim, for your comment.