My negative thoughts on a biz trip

4:30 pm. I just want one thing: to get to the subway station in Greenbelt, Maryland so I can then get to Reagan airport.

My workshop had ended at 4 pm; I’d been waiting at the hotel since then for a taxi that was still not here.

Negative thought: I’m going to miss my plane, miss my plane, miss my plane . . .

New thought: Front desk clerk says I can walk to the station in 15 minutes. Sunny day, I like walking. Off I go.

4:45 pm. At the subway station, the only thing I want is to get the right ticket—or just any ticket—from the self-service machine.


Negative thought: I don’t have time to figure out the entire Maryland-Washington D.C. subway system.

New thought: Ok, this is doable. Not to brag, but I did take 8th grade geometry.

5:30 pm. Finally at the airport, I just want to get through the security line.

Negative thought: I can’t believe how long the line is. Ridiculous.

New thought: It could be worse. At least there’s a line. They could make us stand in an obtuse triangle, or a rhombus, or some other nightmare shape from 8th grade geometry.

6 pm. Once through the line, the only thing I want is some food. Is there time to grab a sandwich? I head to a place near the gate.

Negative thought: How old are these sandwiches? Pick the wrong one, you die.

New thought: The chicken caesar wrap looks ok. It certainly won’t kill you—don’t be silly. At worst, you’d just become violently ill.

7 pm. On the plane, pilot warns there’s a “bumpy” ride ahead. Flight attendants, he commands, stay seated. The only thing I want is to land. Unfortunately, we haven’t taken off yet.

Negative thought: Bumpy??? Bumpy is not good. Roller coasters are bumpy. Are we on an airplane or a roller coaster?


New thought: This is temporary. Breathe . . .

“The main question in drama,” says playwright David Mamet, “is always what does the protagonist want.

“Do we see the protagonist’s wishes fulfilled or absolutely frustrated?” (The New Yorker, 6/29/15, quoting 1997 interview in The Paris Review).

In life, what you want can change from minute to minute—but obstacles are a given. The main question, when frustrated: how much drama do you create?

Tip: For less drama, challenge your thoughts.

© Copyright 2015 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.

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