Sunday, May 01, 2005

Best Laid Plans...

Murphy's Law : "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong."

Things never run smoothly, it's an unavoidable fact of life.

Back in Merry Olde England, it's accepted practice to never organise a barbecue (cookout) more than five minutes in advance, the reason being that in a 5 minute timeframe there's only a 70% chance it will rain before you get the charcoal lit. (Unfortunately in England, grills tend to run double duty as rain magnets, usually resulting in the man of the house trying to cook burgers over soggy charcoal under an umberella...usually while cursing loudly...cats find this hilarious).

I find it surprising that this 'barbecue magic' has never been harnessed for the good of Mankind. We could bring new life to the world's deserts by simply having an Englishman drive out there, say "What a lovely day!" and bring out the charcoal.

KABOOM! 12 inches of rainfall in less than a minute.

The opposite is also true. In flood hit areas, they could send out an Englishman who wants barbecue, but who would leave his grill in the car. As long as he was honestly considering cooking some burgers, the weather would stay unseasonably warm, as it only ever rains exactly 8.32 seconds after an Englishman has put a match to his charcoal.

Murphy's law can not be beaten. Einstein in his famous E=Mc2 equation called the speed of light the 'Universal Constant'. The only other universal constant that appears in nature is Murphy's Law, prompting me to write my own equation RD=B / G (Rainy Day=burgers over grill)

The rain in spain falls mainly over the british guy's barbecue

As I've already shown, Murphy's Law is to planning is what a welding torch is to an icecube.

Many people attempt to circumvent Murphy's Law by being spontaneous. Think of it, a lot of the best times in life are the unexpected, deciding at the last minute that instead of spending another night in front of the TV, you're going to go out on the town. A old friend showing up unexpectedly and you having a fun day reminicing about old times. Surely not knowing your plans stymies Mr. Murphy, doesn't it?

Unfortunately people, those are the exceptions that prove the rule.

Murphys law cannot be beaten, sidestepped or avoided. The computer that has run without a hitch for 5 years will come down with a virus that day you need to finish that report. The stove will fail the day your boss is coming around to dinner. Your alarm clock won't go off the morning of the big meeting. The day after you've been up all night to finish that assignment, you're tutor will be off sick, giving you an unexpected extension on the dealine.

However, Murphy's Law is a lot more insidious and devious that simple inconvenience:

Murphy's Law #2: Things will only go wrong when it will cause the most trouble

Think of it, when was the last time your car refused to start? Was it the day when you had nothing to do, but just go out for a ride? No, it was at 6am before you had to leave for work, it was on the way to your wedding, it was outside your date's house with their well-to-do parents looking on from the front porch.

Murphy's law has an intelligence behind it, it never appears to be simply random. It lulls you into a false sense of security before striking. Murphy's Law is your pet cat. It lies in your lap purring softly waiting for you to get distracted before sinking its claws into your leg. It waits until you've cleaned the carpet before hocking up a furball; and once it's all over it gives you a look that says: "That's life, what do you expect me to do about it? Clean up my bastard."

So what started me on this topic? The answer is I've experienced some of the worst Murphy has to offer over the past few years. (I won't say the worst, or Murphy will prove me wrong.) A 6 month Visa process taking 2 years, delay after delay getting my work permit. Every form I've filled out has brough back 2 more.

I'm not bitter, however, the only real cure for Mr, Murphy and his law is to laugh at it (although a lot of the time it seems laugh or cry), and to expect it. That's how you catch Murphy in his own logic. If you honestly expect things to go wrong, Murphy is stuck. Either things go wrong, as expected, or he tries to beat you at your own game, making the things you expect to happen, not happen...IE everything goes right. You must never, however, expect this tactic to work, or it won't.

Head spinning yet?

Now to the crux of my story, an pure example of Murphy at his finest:

My wife and I have decided to buy a couple of bikes in order to get some excercise. We've planned a trip on them in a couple of weeks.

My wife works nights, so our usual routine is she goes to work, and I stay up all night, and we go to sleep at the same time every morning. Basically to stop the situation from being me getting up when she's going to bed and vice-versa. We spent close to $40,000 to be together, only spending 5 minutes a day in each other's company just wouldn't cut it.

This morning we had a change of routine. Rather than going to bed when she got home, we decided to do a dry run of our bicycle trip in the car to measure the distance, and stop at the local Wally World on the way home to price the actual bikes.

Now at a time when we'd usually be safe and warm in bed, we're out and about in the car. What happens? In 5 minutes the weather goes from unseasonably warm to a full thunderstorm, complete with dime sized hail.

So what's so bad about that? We're in the car, not actually getting wet...that's unfortunate at most. However, it gets so bad we have to pull off the road and wait for the hail to stop. Bear in mind we've both been awake since 12 noon the previous day, so we're tired, cold and hungry. We expected to be riding with the windows down, enjoying the warm and fresh air, Maybe stopping somewhere for breakfast. We're not, however, going anywhere.

We decide to give Walmart a miss and go straight home, but our luck appeared to change, and as we neared Walmart on the way home, there was a break in the rain. "Great!" I say. "Our luck's changed, lets stop off at Walmart!"

Murphy's Law #3 Never, under any circumstances, proclaim good luck or happiness. This will bring murphy down on you like a pack of wild dogs on a three legged cat.

We enter the Walmart ready for a leisurely look around. We get to the bikes, I start mentally listing the things I want to look at. At that precide moment of security, safe in the knowledge something was going right, it's announced over the PA system that all customers must go to the front of the store. My mind races! Maybe we've all won a prize! Maybe one of us is the millionth customer! Of course, as happiness and excitement raises, Murphy rises in direct proportion to it. I'm fantasising about a new car, a million dollars. What could it be?

It was a bomb threat.

We leave defeated. I'm completely sure that the threat is some sicko's idea of a prank. It's unlikely Al-Queda would choose such a low profile target, especially with places like Lockheed Martin so close by. We leave the store, me now with a picture in my mind of some stoned indiot in a car in the parking lot with a cellular in his hand, just yucking it up at all the cars leaving.

Walmart never blew up, it was a hoax.

So, long story short, at a time when I'd have just eaten something and settled down in a nice warm bed with my wife, we've been caught in a storm, we're cold wet and hungry, and now stuck in a traffic jam outside Walmart caused by an idiot prankster.

Murphy's Law #5: Murphy Cannot Be Beaten...Unless You Don't Want Him To get Beaten.

On the upside, the storm proved what an excellent job I did replacing the windows. No water got it wasn't all bad. Cat sniggered as we walked in, soaked to the bone. Waited for something bad to happen to cat. Nothing did.

The Cats are in on it, I'm certain.


serendipity said...

I love reading your site, english sarcasm at it's best!

Paulius said...

Thank you very much!

If you like my blog, please spread the word!

Paulius said...

PS...Thank you for the idea for tonights topic!

serendipity said...

I've linked you to my site, I hope that's ok. and no problem, if i can give you ideas that spur you on then so much the better :)