It seems to me that I suffer from more bumps, trips, tangles, and thumps than the average person. This is partially caused, no doubt, by my failure to acknowledge the power of the preventable moment. For those unfamiliar with the concept, a preventable moment results from that split second when you could choose to avoid catastrophe, but don’t. For instance, if you decide to climb the stairs while balancing a stack of containers filled with tiny glass beads, anchored in place by your chin, trust me, nothing good will come of it.
But I’ve witnessed others flouting the wisdom of the preventable moment, and consistently emerging with their dignity and their beads intact. So, I concluded long ago that there must be a force of the universe with a perverse sense of humor that delights in steering me into the path of chaos more often than it does others.
However, I had that conclusion challenged a while ago, back in the before days, when it was still both advisable and fun to go out to lunch with a friend.
She and I were seated in a booth as I began to recount my latest misadventure. But it was chilly in the restaurant, and I slid out of the booth to put my jacket on. I continued to talk as I wriggled into my coat. I noticed my friend’s eyes widen as I spoke, and I assumed she was riveted by my sad little story.
But when I concluded and sat back down, she didn’t commiserate with me. She couldn’t, because she was convulsed with laughter. Now, while my anecdote might have been mildly amusing in places, it didn’t rate high enough on the hilarity scale to account for that much laughing.
When she could speak again, she explained that as I stood in the aisle sweeping my jacket up and over my shoulders like a matador waving a cape, a waiter carrying a tray full of beverages had emerged from the kitchen behind me. He only missed being taken out by my coat because he did a smooth two-step to my left. I had remained oblivious. Another near miss occurred seconds later as I flung out my arm and flopped it about, searching for the opening of my sleeve. That time, a waiter narrowly averted dropping a tray of dirty dishes on my head. Again, I was blissfully unaware that I’d been rescued from disaster.
I had a sudden epiphany. My friend had just witnessed me escape from calamity not once, but twice, while I stood in total ignorance. So, I had to wonder, what if only a fraction of the misadventures that could beset me actually have? Maybe I’ve been rescued from catastrophes far more often than I’ve suffered them—only I’ve been too obtuse to recognize my luck. Instead of a malicious energy propelling me toward calamitous results, maybe a benevolent force has actually been busy saving me from fiascos I never even knew were waiting for me.
I don’t know. But I like to think so.