Someone once had a good idea that a road needed to be built from Point A to Point B. A little company formed to build the road and I was fortunate to be part of that company. It was a very exciting period with a common and straightforward vision. We spent a lot of time and effort and built a good road that let people get from Point A to Point B. Pretty soon, more and more people started to use the road and we kept improving it to handle the traffic and keep people moving. We were surprised at how many people wanted to go from Point A to Point B and use our little road. It took a lot of work and effort to maintain that road and keep things running smoothly, but we did a pretty good job with the resources that we had. Some people may not realize it, but working on a road while people are using it is not as easy as one might think. Sure everybody wants potholes fixed, lanes added, bypasses built, but most people don’t want to wait for the work to be done. And even though you build a road and one day call it finished, it is never really finished. There’s upkeep and improvements and new rules to follow. As time went on, we built more things for the road that made the trip faster and more enjoyable. It was a crazy time as we had to constantly work to keep things running. While we never had the time ourselves to enjoy the journey from Point A to Point B, every now and then we would hear stories and see pictures of some family’s remarkable trip. And yes, there were also the days when things didn’t run so smoothly. Occasionally traffic slowed or there would be an accident. We dealt with those too.
One day, I’m not sure exactly when, someone came to our company and said they had discovered a new way of getting from Point A to Point B and wanted us to add a new road. We had some meetings and they showed us pictures of the scenery of this undiscovered route. We couldn’t believe it. Why had no one discovered it yet? Not only was it better scenery, this new road was going to be a shortcut, taking them to Point B faster than the old way. Maintaining the original road already kept us pretty busy but we were afraid someone else might discover the new route so we jumped on the idea and forged a new road from Point A to Point B. The new road proved challenging to build but eventually it was finished and the road opened to traffic on a quiet Monday morning. At first the person that had discovered the route had some misgivings and complained that it wasn’t exactly the route they envisioned. They had wanted a 2 lane road but we had built a 4 lane road to handle more traffic over time. However, pretty soon they found they loved using the new road and seeing the new scenery. But as time went on, we were surprised at how many people still preferred the old road. In fact, many people started to get upset that we had built the new road and not made other improvements to the old road. And while we tried to show the advantages of the new road, most people continued to follow the same route as before even though it took longer.
During this time it was starting to get difficult to maintain two roads. We were constantly having to go back and forth. Working on one road had kept us busy. Two roads were at times chaotic. Sometimes we wondered if we should have just focused on improving the original road. We wondered if providing more choices was a mistake. Then something happened I will never forget. I was out working on the road one morning, and a man in a very expensive car stopped and introduced himself. He told me he’d just starting going from Point A to Point B and had tried both our routes. In fact, he said both routes were pretty good but he’d driven on roads before that let drivers go up to 100 MPH. That was crazy I told him. We can’t let people drive that fast. We never intended cars to drive on our roads at those types of speeds. But then he said there are lots of drivers like him that would drive 100 MPH if we allowed it. Build another road, a toll road, from Point A to Point B just for people to go 100 MPH, he said. It will pay for itself and some, he promised. We thought it over for a bit and convinced ourselves that because we had already built two roads, we had the process of building roads down to a science. Another one couldn’t be any harder. And so we did it. We built another road, dedicated to the 100 MPH drivers to take them from Point A to Point B the fastest way possible.
At that point, we considered ourselves brilliant. We had built 3 different roads to get someone from Point A to Point B. You could go the original way or the scenic way or the quickest way possible. We had it covered. Or so I thought. Things moved pretty smoothly on the roads but they were also crazy times. Day and night, we were constantly running from Point A to Point B, jumping from the 3 different roads and taking care of all the problems so traffic would flow smoothly in the morning. We were exhausted and drained at the end of most days.
After we finished with the third road, we thought we had everything covered. But, in fact, it was just the opposite. Even though we thought having three choices would be all people needed, instead people started to realize that we built roads. You’d be amazed at how many people have a better idea or a new way of getting from Point A to Point B. It wasn’t long before every day someone had a new idea for a better way of getting from Point A to Point B. Some people wanted to go over the mountains. Some wanted to go right through the mountain. And others wanted to go around the mountain. Everybody had a good reason for why their route was better than anything we already had. And before we knew it, all we did was work on roads going to the same place instead of building new roads to new places. Last count, we now have 255 roads that go from Point A to Point B with hundreds of more proposed routes waiting for review. Every now and then, I remember the days of working on the original road, working towards a dream while the sun beat down on my back and the sweat streamed down my face. Forging that first new road through unknown territory brought so much excitement. Every now and then I find myself looking at the distant mountains and wondering what new places are waiting to be discovered.
In a rare moment, a smile will cross my face as Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoon comes to mind. It’s the one that shows an old man standing next to a couple in a car asking for directions with a crumbled up map with arrows going from Point B to Point A , “Geez folks, not sure. Most folks want to go the other way.” He says.