Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Thoughts Concerning Luck

You can try to rationalize with me all you want: nothing will change the fact that I have historically bad luck. And if you think luck of any kind is simply a matter of perception, clearly you haven't been paying attention.

And it's true I'm not superstitious. Not really. But I will admit that sometimes I wonder, rhetorically and facetiously, if maybe one spring afternoon several years ago that perhaps I inadvertently jinxed myself.

I was just a kid at the time, sitting in the grass surrounding a baseball diamond, looking up whenever my brother was at bat; looking down whenever he wasn't.

During one such break, I discovered a lone four-leafed clover. I'd heard of such things but had never seen one, and was enthralled by my good fortune.

And, naturally, I plucked it from its base and tucked my good luck charm into whatever book I had with me that day (most likely an installment of Babysitter's Club or Nancy Drew).

But I wasn't content with that lone clover anomaly, so I scanned the grass for more: and more I found. Well over a dozen, in fact.

And I ripped every one of them from the ground, hoarding these charms like canned goods in a fallout shelter.

Years passed and I never discovered another four-leafed clover — not that I can recall, anyway. And in the meantime, my luck was something out of the story books. Only, instead of fairy godmothers and Prince Charmings, I broke bone after bone. Had chance encounters with exhibitionists on public transportation. And even drove a "chariot" that, though new, was acquainted with my mechanic on a first name basis.

And then, one day while camping last summer, I found another clover.

I stooped down to pluck it; remembered how little those "charms" helped me the first time around, and further speculated that perhaps my greed was to blame for my odd luck.

So I took a picture of the clover instead of picking it.

Minutes later I lit a match, only to have the match-head burst into flames, break off mid-air, and land firmly on my arm.

I still have the scar to prove it.
But I still insist on sharing the wealth, and refuse to uproot any more clovers. Hence this not-so-great photo, which I took a couple weeks ago.

I stumbled onto this one at the grave site of Johnny Appleseed (whose "seed" apparently produced more than apples around the country - let's just say if Maury Povich existed 130 years ago, Mr. Appleseed would've been a repeat guest).

And after I found this one, I chanced upon one more.

As per my agreement with karma, I left them both in place.
Last night after a couple hours at the neighborhood laundromat (where good things never happen), I was driving to Target to pick up a few things when I turned south onto a narrow street, only to see another car heading north — in my southbound lane — as he quickly swerved to get around someone who was parallel parking.

I slammed on my brakes. He slammed on his, stopping just inches from my front bumper. Without even checking his rear view mirror, he then pushed his car into reverse and rammed into the front bumper of the girl who'd been trying to parallel park.

As a "witness," I stopped to wait for the cops to arrive (they didn't), and talked to the girl who'd been hit.

And, I swear, if doppelgangers exist, she was mine.

She purchased her (brand new) car about the same time I purchased mine. It was even one of the models I'd looked at.

"Why are people around here so impatient?" she said. "Why couldn't he just wait for me to park?"

She continued by regurgitating to me various observations I've frequently made about life, particularly since moving to this neighborhood.

"I'm tired of living here," she said. "I don't understand why bad things keep happening."

Her brother, who lives nearby and happened upon the accident, shared with me that in the past two months, his sister had all of the windows busted out of her old car; and then after paying to replace those, her car was set on fire (and subsequently destroyed). A street "crime cam" caught the act on tape — and eye witnesses called the police with descriptions of the people — but 8 weeks had passed and the precinct detective still hadn't called with an update.

And the car involved in yesterday's accident — all shiny and new — was a replacement for the one that had been destroyed in the fire.

And, I swear, from what I saw of she and her brother, they seemed like decent, ordinary people. There was no reason I could see — aside from pure, bad luck — that these things keep happening to her.

"You really have rotten luck," her brother said to her.

"I know," she said. "It's like I'm cursed."
A bit later the man who caused the accident came up to her, yelling, claiming that she had hit him, too.

She hadn't, and the idea that he would even make such a claim was preposterous.

And I could tell she didn't want to. Could tell that she was trying her hardest to keep it all together as he yelled at her.

And yet right there, in the middle of the street, she started crying.

And I know, better than I care to admit, that her anxiety had very little to do with yesterday's minor accident.
It occurred to me at one point to ask — as a means of lightening up the mood — if perhaps ever in her childhood she may have taken more than her fair share of a good luck charm.

But I know full well that life is never so simple.


Unacademic Advisor said...

I want to say that you have to get out of that city, but in your case, I'm not sure it would matter. Darling Wife's brother lives in Chicago, but nothing like this happens to him.

Oh, no. Did I just jinx him?

disgruntled world citizen said...

Okay, here's the thing: if some cabbie in NYC can get a book published (newyorkhack.blogspot.com) than you should be able to. That was probably one of my favorite posts ever. If there was an award for bets thirdworst post (and mind you, there should be) I think my vote would have to go to this one. Yes, indeed.

Beth said...

I'm part of your tribe.

Winter said...

Death to all that believe anything in life that is good, is nothing but luck.

Anonymous said...

Maybe, like you, in a previous life she drove a bus load of nuns off a cliff? You should stay in contact with her so you can compare notes, maybe start a support group. The (no) Joy (bad) Luck Club. Just a thought.

Winter: There is a book about optimism vs pessimism. It says optimists believe that bad things happen because of luck while good things come from themselves. Pessimist usually see bad things as their fault and good things as just luck. Optimists tend to have happier lives because they are more resilient. In other words, you don't have to wish death on people who believe all good comes from luck. They are slowly dying the death of a thousand paper cuts.

Stacy said...

Again, love your writing, but I can't comment until I find out what "dopplegangers" means.

Jamie Willow said...

so I think you may be onto something with this luck idea! for real! i've had a bad run of it lately and i have started laughing because it seems to unreal...and I remember picking plenty of four leaf clovers when I was a little girl...hmmm...

Pamela said...

I'm thinking good thoughts -- for a run of good things happening in both your lives.

M@ said...

My "old man" used to watch baseball and tell me that a particular player, the one at bat, was "due for a hit."

If the 290% hitter hadn't gotten a hit in, what, 12 at-bats, the odds would be with him.

You're due for a hit, too.

Eli Edmundson said...

Is leaving the tenth comment lucky? Seems like a lot of bad luck is tied up with car ownership.

The Idea Of Progress said...

Think of these obstacles as opportunities. And Fate knows that the two of you have a deal. She's just waiting to spring it on you at the right time.