Okay… a little high school math: One acre equals 43,560 square feet. Twelve acres equals 522,720 sq. feet. The average “footprint” of a pile of dog pooh is approx. one-tenth of a square foot. Soooo…. on a twelve-acre lot the probability of stepping in your dog’s pooh, is right about one in five million. It’s actually one in 5,227,200, but let’s not quibble. But not for me. For me, the chances are 100%. I should either begin playing the lottery or truly stay the hell away from it.
Case point two: When I wash my car, which used to be really often, within a quarter of a second of throwing the hose on the ground, it shoots back at me. Not just once in a while but every friggin’ time! You can take that to the bank. Somewhere, way back, I must have really pissed-off the garden-hose fairy.
Or… if someone yells across the room, “Here! Catch!” and then throws something, do not, under any circumstances bet on me catching it. Bet against me and you’ll win…EXCEPT if someone just throws the thing without opening their mouth. Then I’m about average.
These three examples accurately depict one kind of luck I have and I’m guessing we all have different brands of luck.
Here’s another, different kind of luck: The night I met Pamela at Centenary, I’d driven up from F&M for a mixer (remember the term?) and just as I pulled on campus, this strange girl sprints in front of my car, and yells, “Take me! Take me!” I screeched to a halt. We looked at each other and then she ran like hell and hid behind a bush. I never, ever had done anything like this, but that night, I tracked her down, saw her shadow behind the bush and said, “This is really weird, but……can I buy you a coffee?” Later, I was to learn that Pamela had never done anything like that either. She figured I was picking up my date. 500 years later, we’re sitting down in a truly weird little town, starting our new chapter. If either of us had acted the way we normally did, we never would have met, nor would we have spent what’s going on half a century together.
If you’re up for it, stop and think for a moment what the BIG, GARGANTUAN turning points were for your life. Did everything just trundle along normally, or does it seem like lady luck, or possibly the Goddess of “Fasten Your Seat belts” is pretty much running the show?
When Bad Luck is actually Good Luck: The night they read the lottery numbers for the Viet Nam war, every guy on every campus was listening to see what his fate was going to be. High number: good. Low number: very bad. Mine turned out to be 17 out of 365…truly a hideous number to have. Pam and I were dating. I called her from the pay phone in the dorm and it was a pretty sad phone call. Pam knew that I’d either die or as she described it, “my eyes would change, and I wouldn’t be the same if I survived. I couldn’t imagine any worse luck on the planet.
Looking back on it, however, it was the absolute best thing to happen to me, other than meeting Pam. I learned to fly jets, I learned how to take responsibility for the men in my squadron. The responsibilities the military thrusts upon you…immediately don’t occur anywhere else. Much later, what was not anticipated was a comradery with others who’ve served. There’s no way to describe it, but it’s always there.
Coarsely put, the years at F&M taught me how to think, problem-solve, organize, assess. The years in the military, taught me how to put the lives of others ahead of my own and accept huge responsibility. You need them both, but my fondest memories and proudest moments, strangely came from the years in the military…hands-down.
Truly Bad Luck, but with a twist: Over a decade ago, I came down with a stomach problem…couldn’t keep anything down. After a week of this, I went to my GP, who sent me to the emergency room, where the surgeon said, “You need an operation.” I said, “Okay. Let’s schedule it.” He said, “You don’t get it. We’re going to prep you right now.” I won’t drag you through the…s’cuse my French…fucking MONTH at Hahnemann Hospital in Philly, or the multiple surgeries. One lasted 11 hours. Finally…finally…one day, the nurse said, “Okay, you can go home now.” I still hadn’t eaten anything in a month. Turned out, they didn’t know what to do and the insurance company wrote me off after spending over a quarter million dollars trying. The doctor didn’t look me in the eyes when I left…not a good sign. Went home with tubes still sticking out of my stomach though capped-off. Within an hour, I was green with nausea without the machines to drain me.
Making your own luck: At this point, I was, as they say in the military, FUBAR (Fucked Beyond All Recognition). At that point, and still green and vomiting, I went out to my studio and fabricated my own stomach pump from a Maxwell House Coffee can, a submersible pump I use for making fountains, duct tape, some pinch clamps, Y connections, etc. and manually pumped my own stomach for the next two weeks. My angel during that? Yeah, you know who. In tears, Pamela would make my favorite foods and plead with me to eat just one tablespoon…just one…for her. That was the absolute last thing on the planet I wanted to do, but…I figured I’d go down fighting. One tablespoon of cheesy mashed potatoes with butter managed to get down and stay down. Another came an hour later. And here I am!
Clearly, the Goddess of “Fasten Your Seat belt. This is gonna be a wild ride” has fun with all of us. Sometimes we win. Sometimes we lose. I’m guessing the readers of this column would like to hear what brand of luck you have.
Thanks for reading~