Saturday, April 9, 2016

Still Life with Robin: Murphy, Murphy, Murphy!

Photo credit: 4028mdk09 via Creative Commons
by Peggy Robin

Wouldn’t you know that the day scheduled for my spring A/C maintenance check, it would be 35 degrees out, and it wouldn’t feel so hot (hah!) to have blasts of cold air coming out of the vents? This was on Wednesday. Something told me we’d been in this situation before, and all it took was a quick search of my digital calendar to find it. Yep, on the date of the last fall HVAC maintenance check, to make sure that the system was up to the task for the coming heating season, it happened to be 78 degrees out. And so we had to turn the thermostat way, way up to make sure the system worked.

This just proves that Murphy’s Law and all its hundreds of corollaries work just as everyone says they do. (For the best source of Murphy’s Law+variations and related phenomena, go to:

From the AC on at 35 on Wednesday, to today, however, I seem to be in a veritable Murphy’s Law perpetual motion machine.

On Thursday I was in line at the grocery store and noticed that this particular checkout seemed to be at a standstill. I looked around at all the other lines, mentally counting up the number of customers in each line times the estimated number of items in their baskets, I selected the likeliest to progress quickly, and moved over to that lane. I already knew from many past experiences that checkout line-switching is a fine way to watch Murphy’s Law in action. Of course things moved quickly in the new line…at first. But then, as the cashier got to the man right in front of me (basket containing about 15 items), this customer pulled from his pocket a handful of coupons. Eight, perhaps ten! My brain was berating me for my sexist assumptions – no, no, MEN don’t use coupons; I purposely avoid lines with OLDER WOMEN because I believe in my heart that they are the ones slowing things down with their thrifty, coupon-wielding, line-delaying ways. By the time I had absorbed the reality that I was stuck behind a male multi-coupon bearer, I heard the cashier utter those dreaded words: “I can call the manager.” Apparently, one of the coupons was no good. Expired maybe. Or presented for the wrong product. I had already unloaded my cart onto the conveyer belt; still, I glanced around desperately at all the other lines, now all considerably longer than before. I even looked at the self-checkout registers. Lines there, too. And past experience with self-checkout had already taught me that the possibilities for failure of a DIY checkout are equal to or slightly greater than the number of products to be rung up. And then you have to wait for a manager to bail you out. Well, I was already waiting for a manager. So I hung on in the same line. Eventually I made it home with the groceries.

Then came Friday, and I was using those groceries to cook a big dinner for some out-of-town relatives. Here comes the Hat Trick of the Murphy’s Law series. I am halfway through the recipe, using the ingredients I bought the day before, when I realize I forgot to get one crucial item, without which the cooking must come to a halt -- I can go no further. I’ve got to go back to the store and get that one thing. No, not the same store as the day before. It’s Friday at rush hour, and the lines there will be insanely long. However, I have a much smaller store within walking distance. It will be a quick dash down the block to buy the thing I need, and all will be well. And that’s when the primary dictum of Murphy’s Law of the Kitchen kicks in: “If a dish depends upon a single ingredient, that’s the one you will discover you are out of.” And its corollary, “…and that’s the one that you will find out-of-stock in the store.”

All was not lost. I used my smartphone to Google other, similar recipes for an acceptable substitute, which the store did have on hand, and went home to create an edible meal. If, to quote another popular saying, “bad things come in threes,” I guess I’m done with this run. To quote one more old saw, “It could always be worse!” And with that in mind, I’m grateful for small snafus.

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland ParkListserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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