This has been an unusually unlucky week—or, at least, it’s seemed that way.
On Wednesday night, as I was biking home from a movie, my bike tire went flat. I had to lock it up, bus home, and scramble the next morning to get it into a shop. I got the tire fixed, but now I find my derailleurs are messed up and I’ll need to take the bike in again.
This morning as I was getting ready to leave for work, I realized that I’d lost my access badge for work. It must have fallen out of my pocket somewhere—and the person who knows how to make new ones is on vacation this week.
Maybe the biggest bummer is the reason you’re reading this on The Tangential’s Tumblr instead of our regular site: spammers seem to have hacked into our site and tried to manipulate our scripts, which caused our host to shut the site down. Getting it back up will require extensive and possibly costly repairs; in the meantime, we’re losing readers and SEO mojo by the minute.
Recounting the misfortunes of my week makes me think of the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day—which I hated as a kid, both for its litany of disasters and for the sour mood with which Alexander greeted them. I’ve had my sour moments this week, but I try to play the glad game: My bike was quickly repaired. I have an awesome job. Probably more people read us on Tumblr than on our main site anyway.
I also carry, in my mind, a few vivid examples of times I’ve been extremely lucky. There was the time my car almost killed a pedestrian dressed in black, crossing a poorly-lit intersection at night. Another time, I jumped off the back of a U-Haul and pulled my foot out from behind the hitch knob just in time to avoid a broken ankle, a smashed face, or worse. Maybe scariest, there was the night I was biking home and didn’t see a stop sign until I realized I’d just run straight through it. I survived all those close calls without a scratch. Pretty lucky.
Thinking along these lines, though, can lead to even more cosmic contemplations. I’m lucky not to have been born at a time that would have put the draft in the way of my college and early adulthood, as it did for my dad and so many of his generation. But then, am I unlucky not to have been born in a future time when we live in bliss among productive technologies of unimaginable power? Maybe I was born at the luckiest of all times, in the luckiest of all places: securely middle-class in an unsustainably wealthy nation, just before climate change and/or global warfare devastate us all.
Feeling lucky—or unlucky—starts to feel like a moral decision when you think about your lot compared to the rest of the world. If I philosophize that everyone’s lucky in some ways and unlucky in others, that seems offensively dismissive of the millions of people who have actually each been dealt a truly awful hand. That makes luck seem objective, but how does one keep score?
I guess luck is like money, as described by Ann Landers: it can’t make you happy, but the lack of it can make you miserable. I have more than enough to not be miserable, so I should probably stop whining about my damn derailleurs.
- Jay Gabler