History, Trivia and Contemporary Society
They’re Their There are a number of variations of Murphy’s Law but for those of you who have never heard of it, stated quite simply, it says; “In any project, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” It’s an absolute dictum in any professional world and a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free for people who are constantly screwing up. Although I, like everyone else on this planet, have run into Murphy’s Law a lot, I’ve always thought that it was incomplete. Murphy missed something.
Recently, after years of gathering data, over, what is now amounting to, a lifetime of observation I believe, I’ve discovered what Murphy missed.
Murphy’s explanation of the universe is essentially Existential in nature. He postulates that there exists; a large number of catastrophes, they appear at random, bugger things up entirely and then happily return to the ethereal. Although on the surface Murphy seems to have covered all bases he has forgotten the basic tenet of our existence – Mother Nature’s relentless pursuit of balance in the cosmos. Thus, while Murphy is indeed correct: there are an infinite number of catastrophes just waiting to screw us personally and professionally. He is incorrect when he suggests they act randomly. They do not. They are tied to our own actions and the actions of others as Mother Nature seeks to bring balance into a chaotic world. Let me illustrate.
Unless you live on the bad streets of Orangutan Junction, Borneo you’ve used an ATM machine. There’s nothing to it. You stand in line, wait your time, step up with your plastic and get your money. It’s a relatively simple operation and, in general, it works smoothly. However, when you add just one variable to the mix all hell breaks loose. For example, try going to an ATM when you’re late. Suddenly, the IQ of every person in front of you drops dramatically. Ordinary people who grew up catching money from a machine look at the thing likes it’s the Command Module on Babylon 5. They have no clue which buttons to press and stand there scared skinny that the Cash Back option is going to vaporize their pension. It’s a matter of checks and balances. You see, Mother Nature knows that you can skate through being “just a bit” late to Uncle Chester’s funeral but you’re going to look like a jackass walking in after the hymn. Basically, you didn’t take your mother’s brother’s death seriously in the first place, so Mother Nature had to step in and give you a rap on the snout.
This happens everywhere in our world.
The need to pee is directly proportional to the distance to the next toilet – the further the distance the greater the need. Consuming liquids has nothing to do with it. I once drove through the Sonora Desert without so much as a lukewarm Pepsi™ to keep me alive and never thought of a bathroom break — until the sign read “Next Services, 186 miles.” For the next three hours (a little over two, actually) I drove the busiest highway in history searching for a bush that was more than six inches high. I didn’t find one.
Likewise, the size of the leafy green vegetable that’s stuck to your front teeth is intimately connected to the person you’re talking to at the time. If, for example, you’re talking to Rajinder (the guy you’ve known since third grade, who once brought you a new bathing suit during an unfortunate incident in Mexico) the size will be small, almost dainty. He will point it out and you will both go about your business. However, if you’ve finally gotten up enough courage to flirt with Alastair (the slightly conceited hunk in Marketing) over lunch, that last sprig of spinach will be the size of Jamaica. It will be laser beam green and flutter when you talk. You’ll discover it walking back to the office when you see its neon reflection in a store window. Alastair will eventually end up with Sophie the slut from Accounting and you will die of humiliation.
The truth is there is no such thing as a random act of disaster. Cheques do not get lost in the mail unless you’ve already spent the money. The size of the rain storm depends entirely on the cost of your cashmere jacket. The number of traffic cops; on the fight you’re having with the boyfriend. In nature every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
When I was a child my mother used to tell us “Always wear clean underwear, you might get into an accident.” She never explained things any further but it was a rule in our house. Years passed and mom’s advice faded until one day I thought, to hell with it and pulled on what I had on the floor. I never made it to work that day. I was wiped out by a taxi before I got 500 yards. It turns out clean underwear is actually some sort of talisman against vehicular misadventure. Who knew?
Experience shows us that Murphy was right; “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” However, in practical terms, experience also shows us, these disasters only come calling when you’re out of sync with the universe. You can do the simplest task a million times without a hitch; but bring discord to the cosmos and you might as well paint a target on your back. Murphy’s Law is just Mother Nature’s way of telling us all to fly right.