Murphy’s Law

Once upon a time, a wise man called Murphy, frustrated with his work and determined to find all that was wrong with the world, stated, with pithy accuracy: ‘If anything can go wrong, it will’. I present some minor variations of this law that have held true in my life with alarming consistency. 

The line you‘re in will always move at a snail’s pace

Whether I am lagging behind a trail of cars in a traffic jam, or simply queuing up for a railway ticket, I find that this rule has stood the test of time for me. In fact, I am amazed at how consistently this law asserts itself. 

But just this rule on its own is not enough. It has two very significant consequences. If I shift to the faster-moving line, my original line suddenly gets inspired to pick up pace and starts sprinting instead. This is its way of taking revenge on me for having changed my line in the first place. 

But if I don’t shift to the faster-moving line, my turn will come after four hours at the end of which the man at the counter would have gone for lunch or the traffic signal would have turned red. There is a handy phrase to describe this dilemma, which is, (paraphrasing politely): ‘You’re doomed if you do, you’re doomed if you don’t.’ 

You will remember something important that you forgot to do only many hours after you’ve left your house.

Oftentimes it has happened that the hubby and I have set out on a long drive to some scenic remote location, stopping at regular intervals only to hold hands, sing melodious ditties and refuel both the car and our hefty selves. When we’re halfway through the second stanza of the third song, it suddenly strikes me that I might have left the gas on, and that’s when the real fun starts.

After much thought and discussion, or rather much hair-tearing on the part of the worse half, we decide that it is best to return home to check on the gas. And after driving fifty kilometres back, we scramble into the kitchen to find that I had carefully turned off the knob after all, and that my precious house, contrary to all my expectations, has not crumbled into a pile of ashes. This is a good thing, but then I have to contend with the murderous looks thrown at me by the spouse who resents having driven around half the country in the space of one day. 

Any important deliveries that you have been anxiously awaiting will arrive just when you have left home

Have you run out of ammunition to cook your daily square meals? Are you biting your nails waiting for the delivery of the gas cylinder so that you may return in peace to cooking your rice and vegetables? Have no fear, for the delivery-man never turns up when he is expected. Call him, and he will state with the utmost confidence that he will arrive at your doorstep within the hour. When several hours have passed, you finally concede defeat and venture out of the house for a breath of fresh air, and that’s when the man himself turns up. As he will gladly tell you one month later when he comes the next time, he rang the bell for hours on end and eventually gave up the attempt. In truth, you know what really happened is that he was sitting outside your house and just waiting for you to leave so that he could say he had arrived when you were out. 

If you’re late getting to an important meeting/party/wedding, a million external factors will gleefully unite in their conspiracy to make you even later.

This rule is really a corollary of the oft-repeated proverb ‘Haste makes waste’. In your hurry to reach your destination, you may run into simple obstacles such as forgetting the mobile or the wallet and having to sprint back to the house to fetch it, traffic signals turning red at the precise moment that you approach them, and the ultimate factor in making a latecomer later – a broken down vehicle. The autorickshaw you were riding in would have run out of petrol or your car would be facing the mother of all breakdowns – a tyre puncture. Valuable minutes will be wasted in switching to a new auto or replacing the deflated tyre, thereby delaying you by another half-hour minimum. 

The least you can do to assuage your colleagues and friends when you do arrive at the meeting is, preface every sentence with a humble request for forgiveness. So even when you’re stating an opinion, you say, ‘‘Please accept my apologies for the delay, and I do agree that our team did a fantastic job of winning the World Cup.’ 

The book/CD/furniture item you were desperately searching for just ran out of stock.

In one corner pocket of my multi-tiered wallet, you will find, neatly folded up, a slip of paper listing items such as newly released books or movies or audio CDs that I would like to purchase. With this slip in hand, I enter a store and demand a title from the list. And almost always in this situation, there is a salesman who positively delights in informing me that he’s just run out of stock of the aforementioned item. In fact, he says, nearly rubbing his hands in glee, the last piece sold seconds before I walked into the store. 

If you’re in the bath and no-one else is at home, either the phone or the doorbell will definitely ring. 

When I am bathing, the phone and the doorbell pose as natural enemies – they don’t want me to shower in peace and I don’t want them to ring. Invariably, they do just that. 

If the phone is persistently bleating its shrill tone and I emerge from the bath dripping wet to answer it, it will stop ringing the moment my lathered hand rests on the receiver to pick it up. 

As for the doorbell, if I hurry out of the bath and scramble into my clothes in record time in an effort to open the door in time, all the while shouting ‘Coming!’, then by the time I reach the keyhole, my visitor will have disappeared. 

I have learnt my lesson, and nowadays steadfastly ignore all ringing sounds that I can hear while I am pouring mug-fuls of water on my head. 

Despite all the various combinations of Murphy’s Laws that befall me, I follow one good piece of advice that I read somewhere: ‘Smile, for tomorrow will be worse!’


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