…..or to put it another way, while you are working on Plan B, whatever Plan A you are waiting for will duly arrive. (Or be discarded altogether).
Sometime in the late 1990s one of my in-laws was in the busy World of importing products from India to Australia and imparted this wisdom to me. She excitedly explained one of the Indian wives of a businessman had told her “life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”.
On face value this seemed merely a way to explain away bad luck, justify something not going right and making the best of things. So for a few years I rolled out that as yet unconfirmed quote, every time I was busy trying to make something work or happen and then a better option, disguised as a problem, crept in and took over. Misguidedly, attributing things like fate or true purpose the reason my current efforts were being hijacked and redirected by this new ‘inconvenience’ my ability to stop and take more notice increased.
In 2008, I was also increasingly called upon weekly to either entertain, escort and/or rendezvous with my friends’, relatives’ and colleagues’ visitors when they arrived in Hong Kong. This all started when the German cousin of my best friend in Hong Kong had a flight arriving at the same time he was working overtime. He called me in a flurry saying he had told her to get a taxi from the airport straight to a bar close to his office. Then asked if I could I could keep her company until he finished work. Agreeing, I sat down at the bar as instructed and met his cousin who was on holidays from being a nurse in a German hospital. My friend arrived an hour or so later, and we all had a good chat. Three years later, she flew from Germany to Thailand for my 40th birthday, along with my best friend and they gave me one of the first versions of the Parrot AR Drone helicopter. For five more years she would come and stay in our home everytime she visited Thailand and has watched our babies grow into toddlers. A friend we now consider family.
Following the initial adult babysitting task, my best friend and I toyed with the idea of starting a business based on similar situations people might be faced with and at the same time monetize our hobby of sitting in bars and nightclubbing. Funnily, this was also around the same time we settling down to have children with our respective wives. We had and still have, a diverse group of friends including those older who preferred to visit museums and skip the nightlife. On a monthly basis our friends had younger visitors, nephews, nieces, adult children, etc., who would be taken to see cultural sites during the day. Then come sundown, we would take custody of the visitors and lead them on a dinner and bar tour ending in the early hours of the morning after hours of dancing, manic taxi rides and stops at street food stalls.
One Saturday we were charged with six young and blonde gentlemen from Switzerland who were schoolmates of tall polite blonde Australian lad who had been on student exchange. Previously, he was studying in Hong Kong with our friend’s son and as they were high school graduates from Europe we started with my favorite chicken dinner in a Hong Kong wet market. You have to call in the afternoon to book the chicken as they take a couple of hours to dry roast with garlic and enough salt to clot a small town. Then you walk through the first floor vegetable and meat market on the ground floor before taking an escalator to the next floor where about 30 pop-up cooked food restaurants with low tables and stools are located. Beer was the drink of the day and we discussed the options of the night, given some of these boys were too young to enter most bars.
Following dinner they all said they wanted to go back to their hostel to change and I thought it strange, although welcomed the fact I would have an hour to myself without having to make polite conversation. Some three hours later they caught up with me in the club district, although they had all dyed their hair black. Claiming they wanted to blend in with the Chinese and now looked like a double billing of The Beatles. Except for the smallest of the group who wore spectacles and for the rest of the night was called “Hally Potteeeer” by every second South-east Asian woman we past.
For a decade my role in company sales had involved meeting Western businessmen and taking them on field trips to industrial complexes during the day, followed by dinner and a bar tour before making sure they made it back to their hotel room. Slowly our idea for a company named “Plan B” emerged and we could imagine ourselves getting calls from the masses being stood up by dates, companies with visiting buyers, and all manner of people looking for a non-sexual companion with local knowledge for an evening of gentlemanly conversation and high spirits. Such an arrangement would surely cover our beer costs and be an organically grown business. Fatherhood, however, came upon my friend and I quickly and I became busy studying Thai and preparing for relocation to Bangkok. My best friend then moved with his pregnant wife to a quiet outlying island. The business model did not account for that and the idea was abandoned.
Nevertheless, I had already printed business cards with my mobile and email address. At the top was printed:
Parties and paradigm shifts.
“Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans” (John Lennon)
Having researched the quote briefly it made sense it belonged to John Lennon and even more sense it had been repeated in India. It was dove tailed nicely with the fact my wife loves the song ‘Imagine’ and without any business, we simply handed out the business cards to our Hong Kong friends so they could stay in contact once we moved to Thailand.
Later that year, my wife gave birth to our first son and while her Mother slept overnight in the hospital with her and the baby, I went home alone as happy as any new Father. Cracking open a can of beer to celebrate, I sat down at the computer and chatted online with anyone awake to announce the new arrival. After watching a video of Imagine the next song in the playlist was Lennon’s ‘Beautiful Boy’ and never having seen that video, I clicked play. As I was watching the grainy washed out home movie of Lennon and his first son, one of the middle verses reduced me to tears. “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans” would never be the same and took on a whole lot more context.
Yesterday, and no less than seven years later we found ourselves waiting to know if we could move into a house on the island and the agent had said we would need to wait until next week. This presented a small problem as the boys need to start school a week from now and like all good Mothers, my wife is eager to move in and get settled before making the first school lunches of the new term. Meanwhile, my Mother’s next door neighbor was having a garage sale and advertised the event in the local newspaper. With their blessing we quickly organized a similar sale in my Mother’s driveway. We drew signs with ‘garage sales x 2’ and placed them on the opposite side of the road so both households would benefit. In the middle of my wife selling everything from push chairs, car seats and too small superhero costumes, we received a message the island house was available.
Being busy can mean procrastinating as much as it can be productive. Either way it will distract you from the wait for good rewards from well made plans. We now have less things to pack for the island move and this will help us practice ultimately living with less on a boat. We only made a little more than a hundred bucks, although the relief of being closer to minimalism makes us far richer. Not to mention happier.