Overblown and overprepared


We went to Seoulland today with some friends.  I’ll talk more about what happened there tomorrow.  For now, let me dwell on something interesting that happened–or rather, did not happen–today.  We left today fully prepared for heavy congestion and massive crowds at Seoulland.  After all, this is Sollal, or Korean New Year, and the entire nation of Korea is supposed to be out and about enjoying a much-needed holiday.  We all prepared for the worst.  Our friends considered taking the subway to avoid driving to Seoulland.  Finally convinced that driving was a better option, they packed extra food and a portable DVD player for the kids, just in case we were stuck in heavy traffic.  It was all for naught.  The roads were eerily quiet, and we arrived at Seoulland in just 20 minutes.   Granted, we drove on surface streets and avoided the interstate highway, which I assumed was more likely to be congested.  Seoulland was very quiet when we arrived at 10:30 this morning, although the crowds came later.  We left before the masses departed and avoided congestion on the way home.
 
The experience reminded me of all those times I overprepared for something that did not materialize as planned.  Dear Reader, do you remember Y2K?  Did your company spend an inordinate amount of money and effort to upgrade their computer systems?  Did you wonder at midnight on December 31, 1999 whether the lights would go out and the world would shut down because of the overly hyped Y2K problem?  Did you buy candles or flashlights and keep them handy?  Did you stockpile canned goods?  Did you ever read "The Hot Zone" about the Ebola outbreak in monkeys in Reston, Virginia or watch the movie "Outbreak" and wonder whether a human strain of Ebola or another devastating airborne virus would hit the United States?  Do you wonder now whether avian flu will become a pandemic?  Preparing for the worst and taking precautions are very important, whether you’re driving in wintery conditions, safeguarding your home, or anticipating future risks such as the effects of Hurricane Katrina.  Nevertheless, sometimes non-events happen that are occasionally overhyped and leave you feeling foolish, duped, and/or extremely relieved.  It’s critical to discern when to play it safe and when to take calculated risks.  For example, I’m thankful we did not let any worries prevent us from traveling to the Middle East immediately following 9/11.  The trip was unforgettable.  Today felt like one of those days.  I’m glad we risked heavy Sollal traffic and massive Seoulland crowds despite any misgivings and had a great time. 
 
Granted, this is also the 20th anniversary of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster, a tragedy that could have been prevented if NASA had heeded the advice of scientists who warned that the space shuttle’s O-rings were vulnerable to overheating.  In situations as critical as the launch of a shuttle into space, such concerns must be addressed.  A trip to Seoulland during Sollal is much less of a concern and worth the calculated risk.
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