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What a difference a few seconds can make

Updated on April 8, 2011

There have been several instances over the last few days where it has come to my attention what a difference a few seconds could make to the outcome of an event in our lives..

OK in my case they may not have been massively life changing things, but it has happened three times in the last few days and got me to thinking how we never find out what could have happened had we been just a few seconds earlier or later.

A missed train gets me thinking...

The first was a few days ago when I was making my way to the train station like I do every morning to catch the train to go to work. As I got my ticket at the kiosk the train pulled in on the opposite platform like it always does. This has happened several times and I always manage to make it. This time however I didn't run fast enough. As I approached the platform I was literally three steps away when the door closed and the train pulled away.

Now I'm sure this happens every day to countless people all over the world but as the next train wasn't for another 20 minutes I had time to sit on the platform and let my mind wander to the potential outcome of missing that train. Had I been just a few seconds earlier or the train a few seconds later I would be on the train at that very moment. I started to wonder how the things I had done earlier had caused me to miss that train. I could have walked to the station slightly quicker. I could have not taken the cup by my bed out to the kitchen before I left home. I could have brushed my teeth a few seconds less. I could have got out of bed just an instance before I did rather than lie there those extra few seconds. The list goes on but I was getting this overwhelming sense of everything being interlinked in ways we couldn't possibly predict. How one seemingly insignificant event could potentially have a cascade effect.

It wasn't that I felt that there was any reason or higher purpose behind it all but I did wonder if by not catching that train would it mean that I missed some other life changing event in the day which now I would never experience? What if something happened to that train I just missed? What if I would have met my future wife on that train and we would have ended up having a child who discovered the cure for cancer and so affecting millions of peoples lives, some of who haven't even been born yet, just because I choose to brush my teeth that morning?! What if that's what was about to happen because I caught the next train instead? It turns out it didn't but you never know!

There is actually a very good movie made in the 1990's called Sliding Doors starring Gwyneth Paltrow which is a light hearted take on this exact concept of how missing a train can affect the rest of your life. I recommend you watching it if this sort of thing fascinates you like it does me.

Missed connections

The second instance something like that happened was actually later that same day. After I finished work I was walking back to the train station when a lady who was walking in my direction asked me if I knew the way to the the station. As I was about to turn towards her to answer I saw a man approaching from behind me and start to answer. I figured that this guy was telling her directions or knew her. As I continued on I looked back to find he had walked off and she didn't look like she knew where she was going. What I should have done was gone back and asked if she knew where she was going. I didn't though I carried on walking because I wasn't sure whether I had heard her correctly. As I lost sight of her my mind started to wander. What if I left work a few seconds later or walked slightly slower? I would have heard exactly what she said, had time to hear that the man didn't know so could have stepped in to offer assistance. Had missing that train earlier meant that I had now missed this chance to help? My god what if that was the future mother of my unborn child who was going to save the human race! If only I hadn't brushed my teeth for so long, humanity could have been saved! Well, you get the idea of along what lines my thoughts went.

Almost missed my bus

The third and final instance happened just today. I was getting a lift to the bus station but after leaving late and getting stuck in traffic I had pretty much given up making it in time. As I got to the bus station the driver had just closed the door and was about to pull away. A matter of seconds later and I would have missed it like I missed the train a few days before. But because I made it in time I now find myself sat here writing this article. It also means that had I not made that coach there is a very good chance you would not be sat there reading this, the article I wrote on that coach. That's what I find so incredible, the way that everything seems so inextricably linked. The few seconds that affected my life has now affected your life if only in some small way for a fleeting moment.

What do you believe?

Do you think everything is preordained and there is only one path for our lives to follow or we have freewill to choose our own destiny?

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    • Timetothink profile image

      Timetothink 6 years ago from Ballarat, Victoria Australia

      Very interesting subject. I think about it often