As is fairly routine where I live, we recently went through a 3-day stretch without even a blink of electric power- it appears that the tiniest hint of rain wreaks havoc on the power supply system, such that a slightly darkening sky inevitably translates to a dark house. This is our reality, in any case, and we have adapted to it- between the inverter system and the trusty old generator, we rode out our dark times with as much dignity as such back-up affords us- so power outages are not what this tale is about.
The big problem (and the nub of this story) is that, for 3 days, I had been unable to get any ironing done at home. I could take this in my stride while serving out my usual work-from-home sentence, but every now and again I get to go on a work-release program that requires me to venture beyond the prison walls. Forgive me, I get a bit carried away with my prison metaphors- what I mean is I had a couple of meetings scheduled, which it wouldn’t do to attend in sweat pants and a tee-shirt so, for those fateful 3 days, I just kept waiting for the power to come back so I could iron something proper to step out in.
By the evening of Day 3, the eve of the day of my meetings, I couldn’t wait for old PHCN anymore- I was going out around 7 p.m. to get a haircut and took a couple of outfits with me. The idea was to find a dry cleaner’s in my neighborhood and have some express ironing done, and I DID find one open but was very discouraged to find that it was dark- obviously no mains power, but where was their large laundry-sized generator? Ah well, nothing ventured and all that… I went in to take my shot and the following conversation ensued;
Courtesy Andy Fitzsimon
Me: Good evening. Do you do ironing here?
Lady Laundry Person: Yessir! Two hundred!
Me[Gleefully thinking I’ve hit the jackpot- express ironing for cheap!!]: I’m going to cut my hair; will you be done by the time I get back?
Gentleman Laundry Person: Ah! No, sir- we don’t do that work here, so you will get it tomorrow morning.
Me[Thinking ‘This is still manageable’]: Okay, when in the morning?
Lady Laundry Person: Emmm, let’s say around tweff (I interpreted this to mean noon).
Me[Exasperated]: You said morning- that isn’t morning!
Lady Laundry Person: Sir, you know tomorrow is ‘environmental’ so we will not open until ten.
Gentleman Laundry Person: We can have it by eleven.
Me: That won’t do! I have to be at a meeting by 10 in the morning.
Lady Laundry Person: Okay, come by 9:30, sir.
Me: You don’t understand- I have to be AT THE MEETING, on the mainland, by 10 so 9:30 will be too late.
Gentleman Laundry Person: Sorry, sir. There is nothing we can do. Even if you check anywhere else, it will be the same thing.
And that may well have been that, but I wasn’t letting it go so easily. One voice lulled me with platitudes about how I had ‘tried my best’ and how it ‘simply wasn’t to be’- persuaded me to give the power company a chance and maybe we would have electricity later that evening. However, my more dominant voice is the voice of neurosis; the one that reminds me of the crushing blow to my reputation if I fail to show up for a business meeting because of hubris and futile hope.
So, I went all Senator Elizabeth Warren on those Laundry Folks and I… well, I persisted! And after some back-and-forth, we settled on having the ironed clothes delivered to my house by 6 a.m. the following morning, at double the usual rate (for ‘express’ service, which was still very cheap, in my opinion). I had spent almost twenty minutes on this negotiation, but I walked out of there with my receipt and a sense of accomplishment, which I took with me to the barber’s for a bit of grooming to complement my soon-to-be-starched-and-ironed clothes. Alas, this feeling of power and universal influence was not to last long.
On my way home after the haircut, my dear wife called to ask if I had found a place to do the ironing, with a hesitancy of tone that led me (and correctly, I might add) to the immediate conclusion that she was going to tell me that the power was back on at home. “The power is back on, babe,” she said. “Sorry, I forgot you were looking for a place to iron, ‘cos it’s been back for about 40 minutes.” Aaaaaaaargh! Dammit!
Incidentally, it gets even worse! The next morning, Gentleman Laundry Person delivered my neatly pressed clothes precisely at 6 a.m. Having done the school run preparations for Prince and Princess, I cleaned up and put on my smooth and starched duds, bounced down to the car and set off for my meeting at 9 a.m. 5 minutes of travel time later, I got a text message from the prospective client that I was to meet, telling me he had an unexpected work emergency and asking us to reschedule for the following week; I mean, WTF!!??!!!
Sure I was little over a thousand bucks out-of-pocket as a result of my dry cleaning adventure, but that wasn’t the real problem. The real problem was that what should have been a beautiful example of Man Imposing His Will Upon the Universe and Overcoming all Obstacles in His Path had been unceremoniously downgraded to a feeble anecdote of wasted time and money due to Man Not Heeding the Signs and Omens Given to Him by the Infernal Universe.
I was too flummoxed by the whole episode to try to discern any meaning it may have held about life or the gods or the universe, taking refuge in the notion that there is just too much shit that we do not know! Whether it is meaningful or meaningless, it is certainly mysterious and beyond our capacity to put in a template to apply as we will. It is the mystery behind Diego Maradona’s 1986 Hand-of-God goal; or Steph Curry getting away with an almost certain double dribble in game 2 of the 2017 NBA finals to score over Lebron, spawning a galaxy of hilarious internet memes (though I doubt Lebron finds most of them funny). It is the mystery behind President Trump.
I have a new philosophy now: one either gets away with shit, or one doesn’t. Second-guessing oneself is pointless. Get on with it, I say. Take your licks, along with your kicks, without belaboring life’s fairness or lack thereof. Spare yourself the headache and just press on. Me, I have already washed and pressed a whole bunch of things in preparation for anything that next week brings- the power company AND the dry cleaner can go take a running jump!!