When I was a kid in Le Mars, Iowa there were many, many Saturday afternoons spent at the Royal Twin Movie Theater. For some reason, during the kids’ matinees they would show the trailers for the adult fare and I became obsessed with seeing The Poseidon Adventure. The clips they showed of the boat turning over fascinated me and I BEGGED to see this movie. When my parents finally relented, I sat in the front row, and when the tidal wave hit, I ran screaming from the theatre terrified and emotionally scarred. I came back and made it through the movie, but ever since then I can’t comfortably watch boat disaster movies. Titanic nearly killed me. It’s that sense of helplessness in the face of inevitable doom that crushes me.
As traumatic as that movie was, I love it. LOVE IT! It has become my touchstone for life. “What would Hackman do?” As is usually the case, the book is different, and better, and definitely not something a ten-year-old should be reading. But I did. Cover to cover in two days. I’ve seen the remakes and I find them quaint but unnecessary. Technologically sophistication does not mean better.
The ethos of the film has gotten me through the most difficult times of my life. No matter what, Gene Hackman does not give up. If he can do something, he must do something. And there is always something that can be done. Until there is nothing to be done.
This is why I didn’t hesitate to take the Covid vaccine. I can’t sit in my condo and wait. We can do something, so we must do something.
As this fourth wave crests, there are more and more stories online about non-vaxxers and Covid deniers dying with Covid. Whenever I see these stories I’m reminded of the scene in The Poseidon Adventure when Hackman and crew have climbed the inverted Christmas tree and the wall of water crushes down on all the people in the inverted ballroom who thought it was better to wait for help to come. As these doomed souls fight and claw the way to the tree and desperately try to reach safety, the tree gives way, sealing their fate. Hackman doesn't gloat. He doesn't stand at the top of the tree and wag his finger at the drowning naysayers. He coolly closes the door and moves on.
I no longer read those Covid death notices because there’s nothing to be done. There’s no need or reason to gloat. Just close the door and climb to the next level. That’s all I can do, so it's what I must do.