Humor by John Christmann

Breaking Murphy Bad

man in a boat under a falling piano

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. — Murphy’s Law

I don’t know who Murphy was, but he sure is blamed for a lot of bad stuff.

But sometimes Murphy’s Law doesn’t hold. Sometimes everything that can possibly go wrong goes positively right. Which really sucks for Murphy, who when things go right, is still wrong.

Not so long ago I broke his law.

In mundane fashion, it happened like this. My daughter and her friend desperately wanted to see a particular concert. Although she is only fifteen, I wanted to be a good dad and let her go with her friend on her own. I offered to get tickets, drive them there, and pick them up.

But I was a little nervous. The show was on a Saturday night. At a large, cavernous nightclub. In New York City. The Hell’s Kitchen district.

A lot could go wrong.

Strangely, the traffic was unusually light driving into the city that night. As a result, I saw them into the club exactly as the doors ensuring they would get good seats. Then I went to park the car. There were no street spaces, but I found a garage two blocks away with discount parking until midnight when it closed.

Perfect! I assumed the concert would end about the same time.

I had roughly five hours to kill. I called my older son who goes to school in Manhattan on the very remote chance he was not doing anything on a Saturday night. It turns out he wasn’t.

I met him at a popular restaurant nearby that required reservations which we did not have. But as we were being turned away by a polite hostess a cancellation called in and we were miraculously ushered to a table.

What luck!

On a whim I checked a local jazz club that was two blocks away to see who was playing. Surprisingly, one of my son’s favorite musicians was headlining. But of course, the show was sold out.

We went anyway.

At 9:30 the music started and we were standing outside the club wondering what to do when a manager came out. There were two empty seats. Did we want them?

Could luck really strike again?

I kept an eye on my phone for pick up messages from my daughter. None came and we enjoyed a great set of uninterrupted music which ended shortly before midnight. I had exactly ten minutes to say goodbye to my delighted son and get to my car.

I arrived at the garage just as they were rolling down the metal lockdown grates and jumped underneath. A disgruntled attendant wheeled up the car, and my phone rang. It was my very happy daughter. The concert was fantastic and she was ready to be picked up.

I met her and her friend safely less than five minutes later.

Things like this just don’t happen in the crowded chaos of New York City. I pinched myself at my good fortune over the availability and timing of such seemingly trivial events that could have so easily been derailed by Murphy.

And it was in the relatively long confine of the tunnel on my way home to New Jersey, basking in my good fortune, that I observed two important details that I had overlooked. First, was the bright light illuminated on the dashboard. The one that sits under the icon of a gas pump. The one that shows a big E with a fuel indicator hand creeping past it.

The second detail I noticed was a sharp, uncomfortable tightness rapidly growing across my abdomen just below my seat belt. I had consumed a lot of water at the jazz club. A lot.

There are no gas stations in the Lincoln Tunnel. Restrooms either.

In the long string of Murphy things that could possibly go wrong I was only one or two from the end without a hitch. But it is a long, narrow stretch under the Hudson River and I was still twenty miles from home on a very empty tank of gas and a bladder that was ready to explode.

If only I could stop and pee into the fuel tank.

I have played Russian Roulette with the gas tank before. Even past empty there is always some gas left. It’s a manufactured safety feature to protect people like me. And I was on a roll. Barring any Murphy-like events, I was almost practically kind of sure I could make it home on the fumes that were probably still in the tank.

However, I have not played Russian Roulette with my bladder before. And it was certainly not something AAA roadside service was going to help me with if I broke down.

It is true that Murphy’s Law, like an overstretched bladder, does not always hold. But the law only applies to those things we have no control over—like encountering bumpy roads and long traffic lights when you have to pee really bad. Regrettably, Murphy’s Law has nothing to do with the personal control of aching bladder muscles ready to burst.

And sometimes even the things we can control go horribly, horribly wrong.

But sometimes, just sometimes, you make it home with agonizing relief to find that everything comes out with supreme joy.

And when it does, boy does it feel good.