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The Art of Seizing the Moment

By Esteshamul Haque


Recently, I was on a flight with a stop in the middle. Interestingly, there were just 20 minutes between my two flights. The agent at the gate commented on this when I embarked on the first leg of my flight. So did the flight crew when I told them of my predicament.


I ran the numbers over and over in my head as I sat in my seat and munched on my Airlines trail mix. I had 20 minutes between the two flights. Generally, a flight stops boarding about 15 minutes before the planned departure time. I was sitting way back at the back of the plane. My flight would be landing in Gate 61, and the next flight would take off from Gate 80, a considerable distance. The flight crew were sympathetic, but they had limited options. We can make an announcement, I was told, but then you just have to do your best and hope that people will be nice.


Hope that people will be nice? Has that ever worked for anyone? In my head, I could see just two options. I could either dutifully trudge down the plane after everyone else, break out in a dead run once I was out of the plane, and then try to weave and zigzag as I’d never weaved and zigzagged before, but the odds were against me. Or I could be one of those obnoxious individuals who disregard FAA regulations and move around the cabin and try to disembark when the seatbelt sign was still on. However, this option also had extremely limited appeal for me. As someone who believes that rules and regulations are the difference between order and civilization and the primeval chaos of the jungle, blatantly breaking a rule with important safety consequences, for both myself and my co-passengers, simply for the sake of temporary expedience, seemed like a lazy application of situational ethics. What was I to do?


For that matter, what are any of us to do when faced with two equally unpalatable options? As lawyers, we are many times presented with two black and white options: Follow the letter of the law and risk being stuck with a result that is detrimental to the client’s interest? Or try to cut a few corners and perhaps obtain a temporary victory, but risk a permanent stain on one’s reputation? Live and die by “zealous advocacy”? Or remember the cost-benefit analysis between gaining the world and losing one’s soul?


But what if, there is a third option? And if you’re ready for it and waiting for it, you can seize it and have the best of both worlds?


The plane finally shuddered to a stop, quivered in its tracks like some great primordial beast, and then came to a complete halt. The seatbelt sign turned off. And there was a moment’s pause where everyone sat in their seats and blinked at the sign, and I scooted off my seat, my carry-on clutched to my side, and ran for it down the aisle.


I didn’t make it all the way to the exit. I didn’t even make it to the first-class cabin. But I made it far enough that after disembarking, I was able to make it to my next flight as the second-to-last passenger.


That moment where all the passengers stare at the seatbelt sign before finally struggling out of their seats, or when the drivers stare at the green light before gently pressing down on the accelerator, or when opposing counsels stare at each other across a table, knowing that they have reached agreement on enough of the points in contention that a final agreement is inevitable, but struggling to put that feeling into words, or the pause when your current manager or the recruiter for the new job names a figure, and you know it’s a good offer, but you recognize the tentativeness in the other person’s voice telling you that she will go higher: these are the magic moments in our lives. They exist to be seized, to be molded, to be best used. Seizing one can be difficult the first time, especially if you’re a risk-averse and timorous soul like myself, but I promise you, once you get in the habit, you will soon start looking for them everywhere: to soar in the golden currents of that brief moment when the possible can be redefined.


So what are you waiting for? Find your own crowded aisle, clutch your carry-on to yourself, and go make a run for it.


Esteshamul Haque is a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center. He works as a staff counsel for Verizon in Mclean, Virginia. He can be reached at