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I am writing a short article where I have to describe following situation. Nothing good happens for a long long time, and people are desperate. Then things change and soon go to the opposite extreme, where things become so good that it becomes unmanageable and creates another problem which is not as serious as the earlier one.

For example, an airline company goes several years with few passengers interested in flying with them (drought). Then all of a sudden, things change, demand far exceeds the number of seats available, and the company is overwhelmed dealing with so many bookings (storm).

I cannot use 'drought followed by storm' because of the part highlighted in bold above. The second problem is a "good" problem to have, but the first one is not. We couldn't think of storm and drought that way.

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This may not carry precisely the restrictions on meaning that you are after, but it is an umbrella idea over what you seek:

When it rains it pours

This means that things (good or bad) will happen all at once, once they start happening, perhaps to an overwhelming degree. Your example of the airline is a perfect use case for this expression.

Other possible use cases:

I got a raise at work, and found a twenty dollar bill. When it rains it pours.

I complained about my neighbor's rotten, dangerous shed. He tore it down, which would be good except that now the rats have moved into my shed. The crows have also started a rookery in my lilac tree, so my yard is full of unwelcome visitors. When it rains it pours.

For a long time, I have been unable to find anyone to help me walk my dogs during the day. I promised three different people I would hire them if they changed their schedules around. Now they all showed up at the same time to walk the dogs. When it rains it pours.

This expression is a fairly new phrasing of an older expression, coined by the Morton Salt Company to publicize the marketing point that when the weather is humid (When it rains...), their salt still flows freely (it pours). http://www.mortonsalt.com/our-history/history-of-the-morton-salt-girl

The original, it never rains but it pours would work also, but is much less common and people might actually try to parse it, instead of just "knowing" the meaning.

  • Out of the frying pan, into the fire Wouldn't work because the implication there is that the new problem is even worse than the one that had been solved. This might be a good question for ELU. – Adam Jan 16 '15 at 17:16
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    Thanks for this good answer. "Reversal of fortune", "When it rains, it pours", and the opposite of "From the frying pan into the fire" put together somehow would be the perfect answer. Let me see if I can make something up. :-) – Masked Man Jan 16 '15 at 17:41
  • I agree. I think there isn't a single phrase that sums up exactly what you're trying to say, but "reversal of fortune" plus "when it rains, it pours" does the job. – Nate Barbettini Jan 16 '15 at 17:47
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In this situation, it could work to say, "After the drought, the floodgates opened."

The expression "the floodgates opened" is used to indicate that a situation has entered an extreme state. In this metaphor, under normal circumstances the water is held back and everything is fine, then when the gates open the water rushes out and causes a problem.

However, the "flood" that results from "the floodgates opening" is not always a bad thing. For example, it would make sense to say, "After the first person thanked me, the floodgates opened, and everyone came up to shake my hand." In this situation, there is a "flood" of positive emotion. It is a flood because there is a lot of it suddenly and all at once, but it is not dangerous like a flood of water would be.

By combining this with the drought metaphor, you get the effect you want. The surrounding context that you write should allow the reader to know that the flood counts as a problem, but not as a terrible problem.

It also helps that both metaphors involve water. The two metaphors together are not a set phrase in themselves, but they fit together fine.

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A sudden or unexpected reversal of fortune might be the phrase you're looking for. Also, the word eucatastrophe describes this situation almost exactly, but it is not in wide use.

You might also be able to use the phrase a good problem to have to highlight the fact that the second "problem" is not as critical as the first.

  • Thanks for your answer. Reversal of fortune is a good phrase, and I think if I don't get any better ideas, I will go with that. However, it does not completely describe the second scenario being somewhat a problem. It is accurate for following sequence: 1. There is a problem 2. Something changed. 3. Now things are perfect. Whereas I am looking for 3. Now things are not perfect, but we are happy with this new problem. In my airline company example, reversal of fortune is if flights get optimally booked, not overbooked. – Masked Man Jan 16 '15 at 16:48
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I am not aware of any common idiom or brief phrase that expresses this idea. If someone else can name one, I'm happy to hear it. But you're describing a pretty specific situation. It's not the sort of thing that comes up ten times a day that would lead people to have a short, common phrase for it.

Sometimes people on this forum ask questions like, "What is one word that means a tall man wearing a brown shirt and heavy boots who goes fishing on a very cold day and on his way home is hit by a truck carrying canned goods that has one bald tire? Someone suggested this word but that word doesn't necessarily imply that the truck must be carrying canned goods, it could also mean a truck carrying fresh fruit." Yes, I'm exaggerating, but once an idea passes a certain level of complexity or specificity, you can't normally expect there to be a single word or common phrase for it. You have to explain it.

  • The situation is not as uncommon as you are making it out to be (although you did say you were exaggerating). If you look around carefully, you will see many instances when "reversal of fortune" is so sudden and drastic that people don't know how to deal with it. They cope better with passage of time, of course, but at the instant of "reversal of fortune", they are so clueless that they think of it as a problem. – Masked Man Jan 16 '15 at 17:38
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There's a saying, it's always feast or famine, which describes situations with extreme vacillation. It doesn't strike the precise note you're after, where the "feast" is too much to handle.

There are phrases that don't describe the vacillation, but do address the "too much business" part of your example, where the luck is so good, it's a little too much.

Too much of a good thing.

Be careful what you ask for, you may get it.

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You could try "take a turn for the better" (see definition here), which implies that the situation has improved, but not reached the desired state yet.

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