Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Lucky One

No, this isn't a blog about the editor. But nice optimistic thinking!

What is luck? Is it as simple as right/wrong place, right/wrong time? Is it the ability to do something stupid and still walk away? Is it the foresight to avoid doing something stupid entirely? Is it fate, karma, angelic/divine intervention, or superstrings stretching? (No, I don't understand superstring theory. But extra bonus points if you know what it is!)

Exhibit 1, or The Ability To Do Something Stupid and Walk Away: My boss yesterday related the story of how he nearly chainsawed his knee off about 20 years ago. Complete with visual aid of the 6 inch scar tissue. "I was lucky," he said as I focused real hard on not throwing up in my mouth. "I could have lost my leg."

Now, really, the man cut down several inches with a chainsaw into his own leg. My father would say that being lucky would have been not needing six LAYERS of stitches in the first place, but my boss knows he's lucky he can walk.

Exhibit 2, or Right Place, Right Time: Freshman year of college, I signed up for a general world lit class, and after the first class was informed by the teacher that, as an English major, I couldn't be in a general lit class, didn't I know that? I had a bad two days of feeling somewhere between a fool and an idiot not cut out for college before I found a professor who was willing to let me into his junior level Victorian Lit class. Talk about intimidating - I was the only freshman, and the prof, one Dr. Woodcox, had a Ph.D. from Oxford.

I seriously thought my luck couldn't get any worse. I knew I was going down in flames, in front of upperclassmen no less. Ugh. I began imagining my life as a Wal-Mart cashier. Not pretty.

Except that the total opposite thing happened. Dr. Woodcox was one of the more brilliant teachers I ever had, and he eventually forgave me my chronic dependence on the passive voice. Not only did I take five or six more classes from him in the next three years, I worked as his office assistant, helped him prepare papers and presentations, and edited a collection of essays he was working on. More than any other person, he prepared me for a life of academia and beyond (thank God for the beyond part). He even came to my wedding. Plus, extra bonus, I met one of my long-time guy friends in that class, and he introduced me to his social circle. These are people I still count as my closest friends, 13 years after the fact. Some of the best luck of my life, all because I was dumb enough to sign up for the wrong class.

Exhibit 3, or Wrong Place, Wrong Time: I was having a pretty pissy morning this morning. Had a lot of trouble falling asleep last night due to that darned persistent joint pain. Toddler wandered into our room at 4:30 and 5:15, and then had to be dragged out of bed at 6. Never did go back to sleep after 4:30 because the hamster in the wheel that is my brain woke up, and my body hurt. Toddler was whiny. It was raining.

As I said, pretty pissy morning. But stay with me here.

So I was struggling to get the toddler out of the vest he'd spent 5 minutes trying to zip up himself and into the raincoat when there was a huge crunch. Made me jump, and stunned the toddler out of the whine he was in. I looked outside, but didn't see anything, so I figured it was the city using the bulldozer to scoop up leaves from the gutter (yes, they do this at 6:30 a.m.). So, raincoat mission accomplished, we head out to the garage. And that's when I notice that in the front of our house, there are headlights pointed at a tree across the street. Even if there was a car parked in front of our house, the lights wouldn't be pointed at this tree.

"What?" the hubby asks as he straps in the toddler.

"I think there's a car in our front yard," I reply. So we hurry into the car and drive up front.

Sometimes, I hate it when I'm right. There's a truck in our front yard, with a not-nearly-as-hysterical-as-I-would-be woman sitting in the cab, calling 911.

"Are you okay!?!" the hubby and I ask in unison.

"Did you see who hit me?" she replied, looking slightly dazed. "He didn't yield - didn't even stop to see if I'd been hurt. Didn't even stop!"

My neighbor Joe - a registered nurse - came out and began asking nursy questions, but the woman really didn't seem hurt. A cop showed up, and began to take stock. The back end of her truck was a sight to behold. The axle was more pretzel than car part, and even though the hubby and I helped the cop look for her wheel, we didn't find it (it was dark and raining). There were bits of bumpers and wheel fragments all over the intersection, and the fire hydrant was a good 10 feet away from its base.

But talk about luck - the cop did find a license plate. The non-yielding, non-stopping, non-caring car's license plate.

So, having my point of view successfully realigned, I got the heck out of my pissy mood, because this is just one of those times when I feel lucky.

1. The woman was not seriously hurt. She's going to be sore, but she narrowly missed being t-boned, narrowly missed our sizable ash tree, and probably narrowly missed being rolled over and trapped in that truck. Sure, her truck is not going anywhere anytime soon, and this was a really crap-tacular way to start a Thursday, but it could have been so much worse.

2. We live next to a nurse, who's a great guy. There's something about having a competent, trained medical professional within earshot that makes me just a little bit more relaxed.

3. The sucker who hit and ran - less than three blocks from a jr. high where about a third of the students walk home past my house, on a corner where five kids and two dogs live within 15 feet of the intersection - is going to be caught and charged with felony leaving the scene of the crime.

I don't want to think of luck as a zero-sum game, and not in the least because I'm not too sure what that concept entails, but in this case, the woman's bad luck turned out to be not as bad as it could have been, and the sucker's luck is just about to get a whole lot worse.

That's the kind of luck I can live with.


lucylucia said...

That is crazy. I am so glad that you guys were able to find the license plate! That reminds me of the time I got "hit" by a car in college and the dude drove away. It was snowing and we found his car by looking for my handprints on the hood of the car. It totally worked!!

Sarah M. Anderson said...

I totally missed that - was that after I graduated?