Waiting For The Captain (Or, What To Do When Your Ship Capsizes)

In the original Poseidon Adventure (and perhaps the remake as well, though I haven’t seen it), the passengers on the overturned ship have a choice: wait for the Captain or follow Reverend Frank Scott (played by Gene Hackman) to a possible escape route.

Now, the Captain is most likely dead. That said, most of the passengers choose to wait for the Captain anyway rather than take a chance with Scott—because that’s the “safest” choice. Surely the Captain will come and know what to do. (even though he’s…most likely dead)

Scott, on the other hand, has this crazy plan where they’re going to climb their way to the bottom of the ship (which, due to the accident, is now the top) and then cut their way out to freedom. Which is crazy, untested, insane, and totally not a “sure thing.”

What ends up happening (spoilers) is that most of the passengers die along with the Captain. To be fair, a number of people on Scott’s journey die too, including Scott (who sacrifices himself for the others). However, in the final tally, Scott’s “team” wins, because at least some of them survive.

The common wisdom is to 1) go where everyone else goes, because surely so many people couldn’t be wrong, 2) follow the “safest” choice and 3) trust Authority.

But you know what’s going to happen when you go to where everyone else is going? Long lines, confusion, and limited resources.

You know what is going to happen if you follow the “safest” choice? Answer: the idea of a “safe” choice is an illusion.

You know what’s going to happen if you trust Authority? You never should immediately trust someone with a big old “Authority” sticker on them.

Where you need to be is Plan Z. You need to find that weird, possibly-personal, gonzo plan, that untrod route, that universal itch that needs scratching. And you might have to define that itch, bring that itch to the attention of the world.

You need to climb to the bottom of the ship—which is now, paradoxically, the top—and cut your way out of its hull.

Of course: what if everybody then decided to take this route? Wouldn’t we have the same phenomenon all over again? But that is the beauty of Plan Z. Most people won’t take that route. Most people will wait for the Captain.

Most people will wait for the Captain. All their lives.

Don’t be one of those people.