Tag Archives: confucius

Missed Team Effort Post: The Power of Institutions

I hated airports. For someone who hated them, I found myself in them almost on a monthly basis. Perhaps that is why I abhorred them so. Sitting in the coffee shop by the arrivals gate, I sipped my over-priced, poorly-made, coffee and stared unfocused at the people milling about, glaring at nothing in particular.

There were little family clusters in front of where I sat. Mixtures of friends and families anxiously waiting for loved ones, some gripping cheesy homemade signs, others craning their necks to see beyond the customs gate. And when they arrived, with smiles spreading wide on faces, arms wrapped warmly around each other, and greetings exchanged, I scowled. The happier they were the more I glared, recalling how I had been drawn into this situation.

It was always my mother who said it, and always in the same expectant tone, “Julian, remember to fetch your sister from the airport today, okay?” An innocuous statement, but filled with the weight of cultural expectations, stuffed with undertones of my rebellious childhood, and just a tinge of disappointment that I wasn’t a more filial son.

All of that at 9am and I hadn’t even had my morning coffee yet.

Annoyance, anger, and frustration, a toxic combination, began to boil up in me. Did she think I wouldn’t remember my own sister’s homecoming? Why was I given no chance to prove myself without her already assuming I would forget or not want to go? Admittedly, she was right. I didn’t want to go. The fact that she was right about me only made me angrier, though whether it was at myself or her I could not tell.

I bit back my retort, clenching my fists and reminded myself that I was a grown man no matter how my mother treated me otherwise. “Yes, Mom. I’ll go get her.”

This would be my role no matter how old I got. I was the son, and thus obligated to certain responsibilities. I had learned this a long time ago, that no amount of rebellion, of perfect GPAs, of clients served would ever change the fact that I was my mother’s son and duty bound to heed her words.

And it bothered me. It wasn’t just that it did not make sense to me why a trip to the airport was made by anyone not traveling themselves—seriously, why spend twice the amount of gas, three times the amount of time just so a single person can get from point A to point B? There are cabs for that. It wasn’t just that sometimes reason and logic did not apply—many things don’t. But it was the simple fact that she would ask, and I would do, and nothing else would make her quite as proud, nor myself quite as filial. Such was the nature of my culture. Thank you Confucius.

So, sullen and sulking, I immaturely drank my iced coffee, purposefully slouching in my seat. I had been there for 30 minutes, in addition to the hour long drive I took to get here. In my stubbornness, I had refused to bring a book, determined to make the whole experience as unproductive and awful as I felt and believed.

Really, picking up your sister from the airport should not inspire such negativity.

Mentally, I made a list of all of the more efficient and productive things I could be doing with my time. I could be reviewing some metrics for a team meeting on Thursday. I could be working on the new pitch for a big client we were going to present on Friday. I could be catching up on television, reading, relaxing, cleaning my apartment. I scoffed quietly to myself. Even cleaning my apartment was better than being here.

Glancing up at the announcement board, I see my sister’s flight has not only landed but had the baggage claim running already. I got up, ready to meet her at our designated pick up point. Exit customs and turn left.

She caught me by surprise.

“Julian!” she yelled, leaving her suitcase to trail behind her she hugged me. “Oh, it’s so good to see you!”

“Hiya, sis.” I gave a brief hug in return and even managed to crack a small smile. “Good flight?”

She laughed, immune to my negative energy and began telling me about the four different movies she saw while we walked to the car. “Thank you so much for picking me up, by the way,” she said and I looked up from where I was hauling her suitcase into the car. “I know you hate it.”

The suitcase safely installed in my trunk, I closed the lid and shrugged. “It’s what I got to do. Has to be done.” Pausing, I quirked a smile, “Besides, I’ve had enough time in the airport to brood about it.”


This was something I was supposed to post for the other blog with Jess, but was late due to physical illness and, what insurance companies would call, “major life events.” I didn’t want to leave it hanging while I started on the new Team Effort post, so here it is!

I’ll be back with Tiny Things too!

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