Last weekend, I watched the Grateful Dead documentary, “Long Strange Trip.” After tour manager Sam Cutler left the band in 1974, the band’s founder Jerry Garcia, anti-authoritarian to the core, who detested the role of “boss,” steadfastly refused to acknowledge himself as the band’s leader. At that point in the film, director Amir Bar-Lev asked, […]
Last weekend, I watched the Grateful Dead documentary, “Long Strange Trip.”
After tour manager Sam Cutler left the band in 1974, the band’s founder Jerry Garcia, anti-authoritarian to the core, who detested the role of “boss,” steadfastly refused to acknowledge himself as the band’s leader.
At that point in the film, director Amir Bar-Lev asked, “So who was in charge?”
Former roadie Steve Parish answered, “Well, I’m so glad you asked that, because I came up with this, man.” Whenever anyone – media, venue owners, cops, or anyone else – would demand to know who was in charge of the band, Parish would say: “the situation is the boss.”
Parish continued, “There were times when I was in charge of everything. There were times when Jerry was in charge of everything. Then, at another time, it would be someone else. … Then, it would be a truck that had a blown carburetor. That carburetor was the boss at that moment.”
It doesn’t matter who thinks they’re in charge when the carburetor blows. At that point, the carburetor controls everybody’s time and attention.
Why isn’t the truck moving? Ask the carburetor.
How long are we going to be stuck here? Ask the carburetor.
Once the carburetor is fixed, then a new boss takes over.
“The situation is the boss” became the band’s mantra.
As I reflected on that conversation between the film’s director and the band’s former roadie, I marveled at the wisdom. “The situation is the boss …Isn’t that how life goes?” I thought to myself. “Isn’t it true for all of us?”
I recall some years ago – the very morning I was to start a new management job – my son threw up all over my bed. My son’s vomit was the boss when it woke me up, then within the hour my new job was the boss.
Last week, my cat brought a live mouse into the house and dropped it in the middle of the living room. For the next ten minutes, that mouse was the boss.
And today, with an impending book deadline next month, you can be sure that looming deadline is my boss.
When a Category 5 hurricane is barreling toward the Gulf Coast, certainly we’d all agree that the hurricane is the boss.
When devastating wildfires ravaged California last year, it was clear that the wildfires were the boss.
And as the COVID-19 pandemic ravages our country, on course to kill a couple hundred thousand of us, the whole world can see that the virus is the boss.
Donald Trump is not the boss – no matter how he blusters and bullies.
The GOP is not the boss – no matter how confidently they say it’s fine for kids to go back to school this Fall.
The anti-mask crowd is not the boss – no matter how loudly they bellow “You can’t tell me what to do!”
Nope, none of them are the boss.
You’re not the boss and I’m not the boss.
The virus is the boss … and will be for many months to come.
But it’s only when everyone understands that the virus is the boss – and acts accordingly – that we can begin to make progress toward restoring our health and rebuilding our economy.