How many of you read Donald Duck comic books when you were growing up (those of geezer age like me)? Do you remember his cousin, Gladstone Gander, the guy who was always lucky, who’d always find a dollar lying in the street, whose every disaster had a golden lining?
I wonder …
Bad stuff – real bad stuff – has never happened to me, even when I and the situation deserved it. I fell off the roof working on the first addition to our house up here, and from the baseball-size black bruise on my rump, I realized if I’d fallen two inches over I’d have broken my back on a stone.
I cut a tree the wrong way in the woods, it fell back toward me, I jumped across, landed on my toolpack with a hatchet inside and got a cracked rib that bothered me somewhat for a week or two.
I cut off half a thumb and index finger on the table saw, hardly bled, had no pain to speak of.
I hit myself on the lower leg with a hand sledge hard enough to dent the bone, walked inside, got a handful of vitamin C, tied on ice cubes with a rag and went back out to finish splitting wood. Didn’t even get a bruise.
This weird intrusion of luck, even when least expected, has followed me all my life, but I only lately came to realize it.
We drove up toward upstate PA one weekend in 1998 to find a fall landscape that wouldn’t be inundated with photo-happy tourists like the Poconos. I looked at the map and asked it, “Where is there nothing?” A green, almost roadless patch answered: Sullivan County! Where and what is that?
As soon as we crossed the county line we sought out the nearest real estate agent. (Linda had just received a small inheritance from her father, the first bankable cash of our 20 years together.)
Two weeks later, we scanned the local weekly, the Sullivan Review, and found the perfect vacation house, totally hidden from the road. We scheduled to buy the property – ten acres of hillside woods and a pleasant, unexceptional house – in January 1999. To close the deal, we had to move $75,000 between banks, a process that usually takes several days, but “We need it right now.” The branch manager (whom we’d never before met) looked at our check, looked at us, shrugged and said, “OK.”
Good lord, man.
Our second summer up here, the same paper ran an ad for a elementary school reading teacher with Linda’s exact qualifications. She won the job and kept it for five years until retirement.
Do such strings of unlikelihoods happen to normal people?
Looking further back:
I got a full-tuition scholarship to Penn because someone else refused it.
My daughter Erin dropped out of Syracuse half way through her sophomore year and so missed being on the plane blown up by terrorists over Lockerbie, Scotland. Several of her drama-major classmates died.
While I was vinyl tiling a floor, a plaster bust of a Neandertal fell on my head from six feet up; I bled like a pig but needed no medical attention.
I’ve never broken a bone (besides the fingers severed by the table saw), never had a major infection, despite driving a splinter two inches into my hand and a nail an inch into my foot (neither of which was treated).
I brushed a running chainsaw against my leg and cut only my pants.
Stupid-ass jobs became available exactly when I needed them. And I’ve never been fired, even when (dumbass) I’ve told those in power that the job I held should be eliminated as useless.
When I’ve had heart problems, they ram little pieces of metal in my arteries and I’m fine again.
Linda and I have chosen to live a life that seldom brings in measurable income, but we’ve never been in debt, and money has magically appeared the few times we needed it. Not to be macabre, but we’re up here because her father left us just enough to buy the place. And a few years back, a letter showed up in the mail offering us almost $60,000 for gas leasing rights.
A final example:
In the historic flood of 2011, our creek rose high enough to wipe out our bridge across Lick Creek, our only access by vehicle to the outside world.
Wait, doesn’t this sort of indicate… the exact opposite…?
1) I slogged down the driveway to see how the bridge was doing. Holding well. Then, within five minutes, as I watched, it rose, swung sideways to rest against the near bank. Wasn’t I incredibly lucky– privileged – to be there right then?
2) The bridge could have been swept downstream and/or broken into splinters. Instead, it nestled against the bank, tethered by one corner to a concrete support.
(My personal luck does not transfer to machines. I’ve gone through innumerable vehicles, at least four dying from thrown rods. I’m on my fifth chainsaw up here, my third lawn mower. Over the years I’ve devoured computers and keyboards by the bushel. I’ve jettisoned or violently destroyed more typewriters than most people have seen in pictures – Royals and Remingtons and Underwoods, a 1915 L.C. Smith, a 1937 IBM electric, a magnificent Olympia 1950s portable. Printers? A 70-pound Xerox daisy-wheel, 5 or 6 Epsons (pieces of crap), three Canons, a gifted HP. Is it that I don’t understand machines or that they don’t understand me?)
Except for that careless misplacing of a couple finger joints, I can’t think of a single time when I’ve been demonstrably at serious risk.
This most amazes and puzzles me because I’ve known disaster-attractors whose every move brings rain from that little black cloud that hangs over their heads. Sometimes my Gladstonite blessing embarrasses, almost shames me (though not enough to wish to trade places).
I’m a wholesale materialist who has no truck with spiritual answers to the world. But how to figure this circumstantial imbalance – why Lucky Me?
a) By sheer chance, I’m on the tail end of a bell-shaped curve – somebody has to be. I think that’s the most likely.
b) I only note when my luck is working, not when it isn’t. As a depressive, a kid who grew up scared into immobility by almost every aspect of life, that seems less likely – though certainly not impossible.
c) God loves me. I’d have a couple problems with this. First, I don’t believe – I mean I really don’t believe. Second, wouldn’t any reputable god have kicked the ass of an unbeliever like me half way to Texas?
d) God has one hell of a sense of humor. Well now.
Tomorrow, an eagle may drop an anvil on my head. In the meantime…