Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Polar Vortex and the Parade Part One: Better Late than Never. (On Incremental Decision making and Common Sense)

One thing I remember clearly from a Public Administration class in College, is the idea of incremental decision making. Politicians like to make a plan, and then stick to it, or at least they like to say that. Deviating from the plan can be seen as weak, or flip floppy.

But the truth is, that is a horrible way to lead.

The textbook example was about some O Ring malfunction on the Challenger. Actually I don't remember all the details. The point of the story is, NASA scheduled a launch. There were a lot of pressures to launch on time. Political, financial, media, whatever.

In the end they launched and the rocket blew up.

So what the hell does this have to do with Chinatown?

Well, the Chinatown Chinese New Year Parade was going to be last Sunday instead of February 21st.
On Friday it came on the news that it was going to be Polar Vortex or whatever.

"They need to cancel that parade." Grace told me.

I shrugged. "Yeah sure. But they won't"

"I'm going to be writing to Marty Walsh and Michelle Wu and all of them."

"Yeah sure go ahead."

"You and Jing best be doing that too."

"You do what you want. You can use my name if you want but don;t use the school's name." (This would later become an in-family issue. Grace went and did her thing but it didn't look like it would do anything.

"Well you should write about it on your blog."

"Yeah sure, when I'm done with my other stuff."

The next day was Saturday. I got a call from Ching Imn, founder of Gund Kwok, that all the teams should call Uncle Paul, President of the CCBA to try and persuade him to cancel.

"Call him? I'll email him a link to my blog. Okay I did it. Wait you want me to call him? Yeah alright I'll call the CCBA sure." I was sort of bewildered at the idea of calling the CCBA to tell them what they should do. Mainly because, that's usually not how we do things. I sort of was calling more as a blogger than a lion dancer. But as I began to hear Polar Vortex and frostbite danger on the news. I sort of began to think more like a parent and less like the inner teenager I always am during these parades. This wasn't about whether I could make it through the cold. I knew I could because I would be wearing adequate clothing. But other people wouldn't be.

I used social media and talked to a bunch of people, and got an e-mail from Uncle Paul that because of all the moving parts, they were going to go forward.
"Yeah okay." Sure what do I care. I didn't really expect anyone to cancel anyway. I remember a cold Chinese New Year about 10 years ago or so. I got a little frostbite because I was the only drummer and I was standing on a truck (It turns out trucks are cumbersome for Chinatown Lion Dances). I did Chinese New Year with a broken foot one year. Big deal. I tried, whatever.

Then the Temperature dropped. Holy crap. The cold was theoretical before. But now you could see it was a reality. It looked foolish to cancel now. But I did not believe that anyone in their right mind, who stepped outside NOW would consider continuing with the parade.

Then I got a phone call from one of my teammates.

"Are we still doing this shit?"

"Well.. Uncle Paul."

"Oh no, this hasn't got anything to do with Uncle Paul now. This has to do with you. What do you think? Are you bringing your son out?"


"I didn't think so."

He then began to list in vivid detail all the concrete reasons why going out would be fucking insane.

"But if you guys say yes, then I'll do it. I've done stupider shit than this. Truth is you should have threatened to pull out this morning."

It dawned on me that, indeed I had given away all of my power, by asking this and asking that, hat in hand. When the truth was, as a responsible parent, of course we should pull out. Grace knew it on Friday.

I talked to more people.

In the end, the way I hear it, Captain Fong (Thank God for Captain Fong) pulled out. In other words he said, "you won't get any detail officers because I'm not sending my guys out there in the cold."

Now that's saying something. If it's too cold for cops, it's too cold for young children and elderly for sure.

And that is when Uncle Paul decided to cancel.

Cancelling at the last second looks indecisive. Maybe he should have cancelled on Friday.
But think of that Rocket launch. If they had cancelled at the last second, even though it would look stupid, there would be some people who are now dead, that would still be alive.

You can say the same thing about last Sunday. Cancelling last minute might be inconvenient and it does give evidence to the fact that you should have cancelled earlier. But, nobody died in Chinatown on Sunday, and nobody got fingers and toes removed. Nobody was hospitalized that I know of... and that could have been a real possibility.

This was a huge learning experience for me. Because even if I question leadership, I never have outright gone against it even when my own common sense told me too. In fact I have several examples of Chinese New Year incidents both in Boston and New York where I did what I was told, when I should have done what I thought was right. In fact, in life, there have been a few times when I didn't listen to my gut or common sense, but instead chose to follow the responsible leader, who in the end, was actually not acting in my interest. Although I yelled at them, I still did what I did, and the inconvenience or consequence is my own.

However this is the first time such a thing happened so publicly. So it is a good example of something to point to, A reference point. Plus weather doesn't look at political factions, and that makes this something everyone can relate to.

Have I "learned my lesson?" I'm not sure. There are many times I have not learned my lesson. I feel like I am constantly in the process of learning my lesson, and yet struggling with it.

No matter what, as one of the other team's members said regarding the call to cancel at the last minute.

"Better late than never."

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