Things happen. Events occur without explanation, often right ‘out of the blue.’
* * *
Three of us are having lunch at Sandy Bottoms, the local bagel restaurant. Strange name for a place where cream cheese multiplies itself while sitting on a stool. The subject of life’s inconsistencies comes up. We all have stories to tell.
Scott, our insurance agent, slathers his garlic bagel with cream cheese, takes a bite and begins to talk. (Garlic bagels are nature’s cure for loosening the tongue.)
He reflects on our first introduction. “It was a dark day when you called.”
“How so?” we ask.
“Well, I needed desperately to rent my vacant office. The bank was breathing down my neck and I was tight for cash. Foreclosure was on the horizon.”
“Go on, brother, unload that burden,” I say.
“OK,” he says. “See, I had a business partner for ten years. We were friends, even neighbors. We made a lot of money, borrowed even more. What’s worse, my ‘friend’ knifed me in the back, took our biggest account and started his own business. I was left with only the bills.”
A descriptive expletive forms on his lips, but disappears with a bite of his garlic bagel. Garlic replaces anger with smiles. Especially with wine.
I consider lecturing him on the evils of debt, but why load more baggage to the poor, suffering soul? I zip my lips and bite into the salt bagel.
He continues. “I put an ad in the paper, and nobody called. I was about to tell the bank to foreclose. Then you call, right out of the blue, just in the nick of time. I was about to be hung out to dry. You saved me by renting the office.” His nervous breakdown is averted.
I fight back the tears. Well, not really. Men rarely cry, except when George Jones sings, “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Besides, I can’t recall ever having ‘saved’ anybody. It’s hard enough to salvage myself from wreckage.
Some events have no plausible explanation. It’s difficult to accept the reality of what cannot be rationally explained. The phone rings. A voice speaks. Like a rock dropping in a pond, ripples radiate out. Suddenly, things have inalterably changed. Think about it.
But don’t be surprised. Random rules the universe. Accept it. No algorithm, no formula to figure out. Just buy into the simple notion that if we show up, something’s going to happen. It’s a weird blueprint.
We dismiss the haphazard happenings as fortuitous, like a master lottery system in the blue. We define them as ‘good,’ or ‘bad.’ They’re both, a continuum of the zero-sum game of give and take until the end. And who can say what happens in the end, except that there is an ending, for sure.
Our faith in serendipity is fractured by the scientific-based mindset. We default our intuitive instincts to computer wizardry. No room in the guts of Google for ‘luck,’ or ‘fortune.’
We’re all Joe Friday, the detective in the TV series “Dragnet,” whose mantra was, “Just the facts, ma’am.” So boring, so black and white. It reduces the romance of life into a robotic soap opera displayed in colored pixels.
Life weaves its own way through our years, even if we deny the idea there is some ‘order’ in the universe. ‘Random’ often appears as a clown, or a magician, maybe even The Joker. And the ecclesiastical euphemism of “time and chance happens to all” is a thin disguise…the brutal truth is that sometimes life sucks.
But not today. For our friend, bad things turned out for good. His phone rang again one day. He got a new client and is back in the chips. It’s an inexplicable epilogue to the age-old conundrum.
* * *
When the days are bleak, when we’re confused, and nothing seems clear, Longfellow’s words help: “Defeat may be victory in disguise; the lowest ebb is the turn of the tide.”
Outside the sky is blue. The sun shines. I smile and wonder what will happen today.
April 30, 2021