A couple weeks ago, a friend shared on Facebook an opinion piece by David Brooks titled The Golden Age of Bailing. The first comment was someone saying it was futile to try to find a reliable climbing partner in the town where they lived, and a second person chimed in and said it was impossible in the town where they lived a few hundred miles away.
David Brooks is not the first person to point out that we’re devolving into a culture that’s more and more accepting of bailing or flaking on plans we’ve made. People point at technology, or the fact that we have so many options of things to do, or the fact that we’re all “so busy” nowadays and it’s so easy to double-book yourself, but here’s the root cause of flaking: you do it because you’re inconsiderate. Which is bullshit.
Call me old-fashioned, but when my friends say, “I’ll be there at 10 a.m. on Saturday to help you move that couch,” they show up, and that fucking couch gets moved. And I value that. Especially when it’s something more important than moving a couch—like showing up on time for an alpine start for a day in the mountains, being there with an avalanche beacon with full batteries, or keeping me on belay from the second you say “on belay” to the second you say “off belay.”
I don’t know how the Fitz Traverse began, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t start with Tommy Caldwell waking up on the first day of their weather window and sending Alex Honnold a text message saying, “Dude, sorry to bail on you, but I’m tired from this week. I think I’m just going to stay in and watch House of Cards.” Big things get done because people show up to do them, not because they half-ass some plans, kind of commit, show up late, and get lucky.
We live in a society where we get pissed and demand to be compensated if our flight is delayed, or if the food we ordered at a restaurant takes longer than acceptable, because we’re offended that someone is not doing their job correctly, and then we make an appointment to meet someone and show up 25 minutes late—or not at all. We treat our friends like we think airlines treat us, and somehow that’s OK.
Yes, things come up, and sometimes they’re important things. Your kid fell off the monkey bars and you have to take her to the hospital to get stitches, so you’re going to miss coffee. Your boss called an emergency staff meeting at 4:30 and if you don’t go to it you probably won’t be on the staff anymore, so you’re going to have to reschedule your happy hour meeting. But everyone knows the difference between a reason and a bullshit excuse. Being late because of traffic is one thing, but being late because you scrolled through 20 more Instagram photos before you left for your meeting is another thing, and it sure as shit isn’t being “busy.”
If you want to get shit done, it’s very simple: show up. Do what you say you’re going to do. And demand from yourself the same accountability that you expect from an airline. Your partners for climbing, skiing, biking, and moving furniture will appreciate it.