The Traffic Cop
Long before he discovered the energy and excitement of the Pike Place Fish Market, John Christensen looked for people who worked with passion. One example came when he saw the move Flashdance in the early 80s. It’s about a welder (Jennifer Beals) who dreams of becoming a dancer.
For John, the most memorable scene was of a real-life cop directing traffic in downtown Pittsburgh. He’s in the middle of the intersection, dramatically gesturing, waving, bowing, even pleading as he keeps traffic moving. He acts like he’s asleep when drivers take too long to move. Sometimes he just uses a leg to point the way. He’s totally into his job, having fun and everyone who passes by loves it. In the movie, Beals’ character even incorporates the cop’s moves into her dance routine.
That scene was all about passion. Most of us have a passion for something, whether it’s music, sports, art, gardening or collecting stamps. But passionate about directing traffic? I was curious about this traffic cop so I looked him up. His name was Vic Cianca, and he died a few years ago after 92 energetic years.
So why did Vic Cianca bring such passion to his job? Was he just naturally excited about directing traffic? Every job matters, after all, and it’s important to make sure cars don’t run into each other. But I wonder if his passion had less to do with what he did for a living than with who he chose to be. I think he was passionate about directing traffic because he was passionate about his life.
And that’s a good lesson for all of us. Too often we reserve our passions for nights or weekends, when we can do what we really love. But passion isn’t just about a certain activity. It’s about who you choose to be as a person. Whatever you happen to be doing, whether it’s creating a work of art or serving a customer, you can choose to be passionate about it. It’s all a part of your life. The only alternative is to be passionate about a part of your existence—and lukewarm about the rest of it.
The cool part about being passionate isn’t just what you get out of it, but what others get out of it. Passionate people give off an energy that attracts others. Vic Cianca sure did. Celebrities like Bing Crosby, Perry Como and opera star Luciano Pavarotti came by just to watch him direct traffic. Most important, Cianca made life more pleasant and entertaining for thousands of motorists each day. He brought smiles to a daily event that usually caused frowns. As one reporter noted, “A downtown traffic jam without Vic Cianca is a traffic jam with no redeeming qualities.”
The FISH! Philosophy is all about passion. Passionate people are fully present for what they are doing and for the people they are serving. They are seriously playful about doing their best and always looking for ways to do it better. They look for opportunities to make others feel special. They choose attitudes, no matter what is going on around them, that keeps their passion at a high level.
Vic Cianca made a memorable impact from the middle of an intersection. Wherever you are, you can make the same impact.