Laws and Order

(Originally posted Friday, May 31st, 2013)

Dearly Beloved: We are gathered here today to talk about laws. By that I don’t mean statutes, codes, ordinance or other legislation. Nor do I refer to anything relating to physics or engineering—although an essay on either of those topics would probably make this post more amusing for some readers given my tenuous grasp of their core concepts and my lack of facility with higher math.

As much fun as that sounds, we’re going to talk about another kind of law—the type to which most everyone is subject regardless of race, religion, age, occupation, or locality, and by which some of us are routinely and mercilessly plagued.

The first of these is Murphy’s Law, which holds–essentially–if anything can go wrong, it will. For you lucky individuals who are unfamiliar with the concept, Murphy’s is the law that applies when a retired marine decides to go outside to the mailbox ten minutes before guests are to arrive for a dinner party, and then walks back through the house unwittingly tracking doggie doo all over the entire main floor.

Murphy’s Law is also the force at work when a fifteen year-old boy-crazy girl is sitting in the stands at a hockey game gushing animatedly to her friends about the talent, beauty, and wonder of a certain 9th grade forward, when a woman seated nearby taps her on the shoulder and announces proudly that she’s Vince’s mother. Now that El Noble is old enough for young ladies to gush about him, I fully understand Mrs. Bianconi’s eagerness to reveal her identity, but in 1982, I could have crawled into a hole or signed myself up for the witness protection program.

These days, Murphy strikes around the dinner hour, when there are big decisions to be made and annoying consequences to be faced if you make the wrong call. Do I lovingly prepare something wholesome and delicious knowing I may wind up spending the evening staring at a beautifully set table while the Jarhead slaves away at the salt mines? Or do I skip cooking in favor of something more fun, productive, or interesting, knowing that as soon as I’m up to my armpits in mulch or knee deep in hyperbole, the Jarhead will suddenly walk through the door with an appetite for whatever he saw on the meal plan that morning. Whenever I find myself at such a crossroads, I like to jinx the situation by choosing the activity that will lead to the most desirable of the least desirable outcomes, but sometimes even that backfires, which I mention only to illustrate why no one should be taking advice from me.

Closely related to Murphy’s Law is the Law of Unintended Consequences. This is the force at work when unexpected events or issues arise after one attempts to adjust, improve, or otherwise change something else–like when some brilliant individual decides to drive all the birds out of his yard only to wind up with an overabundance of flies and mosquitoes. It’s also at work pretty much whenever a pharmaceutical company puts out a new drug, which is why it takes longer for the dude who narrates their commercials to rattle off the side effects than it does to describe its benefits.

Unlike Murphy’s Law, the Law of Unintended Consequences doesn’t always produce unpleasant results. For example, we can credit this force with making it possible to cook a batch of light buttery goodness in three minutes and without booting up the stove or building a campfire since it was quite by accident that an engineer realized that magnetron technology would have applications in the kitchen. Likewise for the case of the woman who, a decade or so ago learned she was losing her vision and decided to go skydiving before she went totally blind, and instead found herself with two working eyes after experiencing a strange popping sensation as she made her descent back to earth.

Of course, I don’t advise anyone to leap out of a perfectly good airplane in the hope that doing so will inadvertently restore their failing faculties or cure whatever else ails them. Nor do I advocate devoting oneself to the development of weaponized bubblegum with the aim of inventing some new gadget for the home or office. I’m merely pointing out that life abounds with happy accidents and sometimes Murphy takes a vacation. If he didn’t, then Mr. Percy’s experiments with dielectric heating would have cooked his internal organs instead of melting the chocolate bar in his pocket, and the skydiver wouldn’t have seen much but the underside of a faulty parachute after the rapid increase in air pressure restored the circulation to her optic nerve.

And on that happy note, I’m gonna get moving, cuz you’ll never guess who just walked through the door.


1 Response to “Laws and Order”

  1. 1 richard
    June 15, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    love yer writing. love you too.

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