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The endgame begins and the law is the law | Chuck's World

Capt. Edward Murphy accidentally gave us ‘Murphy’s Law,’ and the rest is history


Last updated 2/17/2021 at 12:33pm

Edward Murphy was an aeronautical engineer and an Air Force captain in 1949, stationed at Muroc Air Field in the high desert of Southern California. Two years before, the late Chuck Yeager had first broken the sound barrier at Muroc, which eventually was renamed Edwards Air Force Base after Capt. Glen Edwards, a test pilot who perished in a tragic accident.

Capt. Murphy, on the other hand, would have a slightly different place in the history books. Annoyed at a technician who seemed to have a knack for messing up even the simplest of tasks, Murphy made a sarcastic comment and it stuck.

Whatever Capt. Murphy’s original words were, it eventually settled into something like, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” and worked its way through the Air Force and then into everyday life, now and forever known as Murphy’s Law.

I was thinking of Murphy’s Law, then, the other day when the TV stopped working. It felt appropriate.

Let me place the moment in time, because I know that time is tricky for many of us these days. This was toward the end of the weekend, when there appeared to be a foot of snow outside. I’m not sure about the amount because I didn’t go outdoors to measure.

I like snow; I’m one of those people. I’m a sap about it, actually, always finding a little romance in the cold, and it snowed this year throughout Valentine’s Day. My sentimental scale went to 11, then, but I only stuck my head outside, feeling a little like Punxsutawney Phil, looking for my shadow. It felt like winter, and I closed the door.

I didn’t feel like taking chances, in other words, and Murphy’s Law was looming large. I’ve already spent most of a year erring on the side of caution, following medical advice, staying mostly inside. I haven’t been more than 2 miles away from my house in over six months, and I’ve watched the weather through a window.

It just felt dumb, and dangerous. In another year, I almost certainly would have bundled up and gone out for a walk in the whiteness. This time, I looked at those icy steps and decided that falling down wasn’t a good look for me, at least not this year. Shattering a femur after not having even a sniffle since 2019 felt unnecessarily ironic, and then there’s Murphy’s Law.

So I stayed inside and watched TV until it broke. After 10 years of flawless service and only occasional dusting, this television gave up the ghost just as I was getting to the good part. I don’t know anything about TVs, although a quick and shallow Google search led me to think it had to do with the motherboard.

Fun fact: I did not know TVs now have motherboards, although I’m not surprised. I wondered about having it repaired but you know that’s not going to happen; even if it’s repairable, the cost of that fix surely would be at least equal to buying a new, better (and bigger) one.

I felt the same way a couple of weeks ago, when the car wouldn’t start. The battery had been whiny for weeks, which I chalked up to lack of charging time but ended up also being an end-of-life issue. With the towing charge and a new battery, I figured I spent more replacing that battery than I’ve shelled out for gas in the past year, which is also uncomfortably ironic.

Murphy’s Law is really just an observation of probabilities, with a bad mood thrown in for good measure. Things are always going to break; it’s all about timing. It just seems unfair that the world hasn’t actually stopped turning when it feels like it has.

All of this nonsense just reminds me that this is a dangerous time, and perhaps the most dangerous of this pandemic period. I can sense the fraying in conversations, the feeling that things are becoming untethered and breaking. There are murmurs of a mental health crisis bubbling just under the surface, popping up in articles and editorials. Depression and anxiety are becoming mainstream, and people are beginning to talk.

We are in the endgame now, and at least for me caution has never seemed more necessary. This is why I stared at my snow-covered steps and decided to close the door.

This is why I wear two and sometimes three masks at the same time, which makes me feel ridiculous for perhaps the entire 10 minutes per week I’m out and about.

This is why there have been several discussions among the people I keep in touch with about giving each other grace and room to be imperfect, to shrug off bad moods as no big deal in the big picture.

Hospitalizations are trending down. Vaccines are being rolled out more efficiently every day, even as new mutations threaten recovery. Murphy’s Law is always in effect, and it’s important, somehow, that I remember that.

As I did this past weekend, when my daughter sent me a short video. It was midnight where she was, in San Antonio, Texas, and it was thundering and snowing. She was standing outside in the midst of the storm, as were her neighbors, all of them laughing.

Because what else can you do? It’s snowing in south Texas because of course it is, because it might happen once in a century, and this seems to be the century for that sort of thing.


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