Challenger Logo by Alan White   A Science Fiction Fanzine   Summer 2006

The editor of Mimosa waxes eloquent on the paranoid state of modern life …


Rich Lynch

You know, until about a decade ago, I never used to be a believer in conspiracy theories. I'd always thought that the Warren Commission was right all along with the "single bullet" theory, and that the Boston Red Sox lost game six of the 1986 World Series because of the unpredictable bounce of a baseball. No longer! There have been way too many unlikely things that have happened to me since then. Too many, I'm beginning to think, for mere coincidence to explain.

Let me give you a few examples. Many times, here in the traffic-rich D.C. area, I've been caught in traffic tie-ups caused by minor accidents, but they always seem to occur in the lane I happen to be in. And I've lost track of the times I've had to endure a lengthy wait at a street corner waiting for traffic to clear, where if I'd arrived at that corner just ten seconds earlier the intersection would have been clear. And there's more. Supermarket checkout lines I'm in are always the slowest; I never seem to have a dollar bill crisp enough to work in a coin changer; the Metrorail train that arrives at the station first is always the one going in the wrong direction. It goes on and on and on.

Oh sure, I can imagine you saying, all this is minor stuff, hardly worth mentioning. But there have also been some larger events that have followed this pattern. Two of them happened back in 1992. One was at the Hugo Awards ceremony at the 1992 Worldcon (perhaps the topic of a different essay), while the other happened a couple of months earlier that year, the only time I've ever attended a high school reunion (which turned out to be an alumni dinner for all graduates - it was a small school!). It was a long way to travel, way up to a small village in the northern frontier of New York State, but I wanted to go because it had been 25 years since my high school graduation and I felt almost compelled to find out what had happened to the other 16 people in my graduating class. One of the few advantages in attending a school that small is that you get to know everyone of your classmates pretty well, and I thought if any of them would go to an alumni event, it would be on some special anniversary like the 25th.

Well, it didn't turn out anywhere near what I'd expected. I did meet several people I knew from other graduating classes, and also a few teachers (including even my Kindergarten teacher), but there was only one other person from my graduating class present that evening. I'd wanted to give him one of my business cards, but there wasn't any way he was going to look at it. Only a few years after graduation, he'd had surgery to remove a brain tumor - and was now blind.

I only bring this up to support my growing belief that there must be some cosmic consciousness out there that seems to enjoy playing tricks on me. The most recent evidence was the last weekend in January, when I finally got around to replacing the balky and leaking kitchen faucet. The new unit is much, much nicer but it took an amazingly long time to get the job done. Most of the difficulty was in trying to extract the old faucet. All the connectors were located in places where only someone the size of a hobbit could get to, and the thing was fighting me every step of the way. One of the water supply line valves was stuck, and when I did manage to get it closed off, it started to leak. And when the new unit was finally in place, it turned out that the rubber gasket in one of the water supply lines had broken. I couldn't get a new one because the home supply store had closed just ten minutes earlier. Just about everything that could have possibly gone wrong, did. The faucet replacement was finally completed and the leak got fixed the next morning, but for days I was still checking practically every hour in the morbid expectation the leak would return. (It didn't - but the faucet almost immediately developed a slow drip that I was only able to fix by getting the manufacturer to send me a new valve cartridge. Sheesh!)

After all that, I think I've about decided that there just might be some kind of impish force at work out there which uses Murphy's Laws as its charter. But every once in awhile, this vast cosmic conspiracy shows you that it can be benevolent as well as mischievous. The very next day, Nicki and I were at Borders, and even though we had a coupon for 25% off the price of one book, it turned out that we didn't find anything we wanted. So we gave the coupon to the next person in the checkout line, who was a bit surprised at the unexpected good fortune. A bit less than an hour later we were in Sears, getting ready to spend one of the gift cards we'd received for Christmas, and as I was heading for the checkout line there, a guy walked up to me and gave me a $5 Sears coupon he'd just received for having some work done on his car. It was good only for that day; he wasn't planning to buy anything else, and I happened to be the first Sears shopper he saw. The funny thing is, when we were in Borders, when I gave the discount coupon to the next person in line, I saw that the book he was buying was a thick trade paperback, the kind that sells for about $20. And 25% off that is … five dollars.

I guess there must be some kind of Law of Conservation of Karma as part of this great cosmic conspiracy. Or, geez, maybe something even larger is in play. All I know is, the next time I'm in Borders I'm going to see if I can find some books by Charles Fort!



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