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Cars And Kismet

If you had to pick a single word to describe me, and "callipygian" was for some reason disallowed, you couldn't go wrong with "lucky." I consider myself to be an inordinately fortunate guy. And I don't just mean in the passive sense of having a wonderful wife and a great kid and two awesome cats and living in the best nation on Earth, although all of that is certainly true so long as you replace "awesome" with "worthless." No, my luck is more active than that -- or, rather, reactive. It seems that, just when I need it the most, fate will step in and save me from one disaster or another, usually of my own making.

This story is just one such example. Truth be told, the Cosmic Cavalry pulls my fat from the fire fairly often. And lest you think this phenomenon is all in my head, let me assure you that other people have noticed it as well. Once, back in college, I spent my last $5 on a ticket to a movie ticket, even though my next paycheck was two days away and I had nothing to eat in my house. When I told The Queen this -- whom I had just begun to date, and had accompanied to the film -- she marvelled at my idiocy, but I assured her that it would all work out. And sure enough: before the movie began an usher came out and announced that they were going to hold an impromptu raffle. He pulled a ticket stub from a bucket, and when I stood up to announce that the number matched my own he said I'd won a free meal at a local pizzeria. To this very day she begrudges me that.

Anyway, last Saturday my car ran out of gas. Do you like the way I used the passive tense there, like no one was to blame, despite the fact that I'm the only one who drives this vehicle? Anyway. Halfway across Washington's famous floating bridge, the car gave one last, hearty "vrrrrRRRRRRMMMMMmmmmm" and coasted to a stop.

Now, his was all sorts of bad. For one thing, I don't own a cell-phone, as part of my plan to eventually become a cranky old geezer out-of-touch with modern technology . For another, the shoulder of the bridge is just a smidge wider than a single car-width, so by abandoning my Toyota there I was running the very real risk of it getting hit by some passing vehicle. And, worst of all, I was at least a mile from the nearest gas station. I knew that, in the time it would take me to jog to Mercer Island, purchase a gas can, fill it up with fuel and return, my car would almost certainly get towed.

The shoulder was so narrow that I couldn't exit on the driver's side without stepping into traffic, so I clambered over to the passenger's side and squeezed out the door. Only after I locked and closed the door behind me did I realize that I'd left the keys in the ignition.

Now thoroughly dispirited, I trotted to the nearest town (about two miles away), called The Queen, told her the situation, and asked that she come pick me up. Twenty minutes later she arrived. We stopped at a station, filled up our gas can, and hopped back on the freeway.

Nearly an hour had passed since I had ditched the vehicle, and I had no hope that my car hadn't been hit or towed in my absence. Sure enough, when we reached the bridge we could see flashing police lights ahead, right where the car had died.

"They must be towing it right now," I groaned.

"Maybe we can get there before they take it away," The Queen replied, but I shook my head. "Once the tow truck arrives, they won't let you get your vehicle until they've towed it to the depot," I told her. "We're going to have to pay for the towing no matter what."

Then, as we got closer, things looked worse. Not only was there a cop car stationed there, but was a huge tanker truck parked on the shoulder as well, a few feet behind my vehicle. The obvious reason for it being there, of course, was that it had hit my car. "Aw, crap!" I told The Queen. "It looks like the Baldwin luck ain't gonna save me this time."

We pulled over to the shoulder. I grabbed the gas can, exited, and trotted up to the police car, where a cop stood waiting for me. Because the tanker filled the shoulder I was unable to see my car, and therefore didn't know what damage the collision had done to it.

The officer saw me approaching. "Do you own the Toyota?" he asked.

"Yeah, that's mine," I confessed, bracing myself for the worse.

"Okay," the cop replied replied.

I waited for a moment, before saying. "Uh, 'okay' what?"

"Okay, go ahead and fill up it up and leave," the cop said.

"Leave?" I was confused. "Didn't this tanker hit my car?"


I then occurred to me that the tanker might carry gasoline. "Are you guys refueling my car or something?"


I couldn't think of any other explanations for the situation. Finally I asked, "So, does this tanker have anything to do with my car?"

"Nope," said the police officer. "He overheated. It's just a coincidence he pulled over right behind you."

I nodded and headed towards my car. As I passed the cop he added, "Lucky for you, too: if we hadn't been so busy dealing with this guy, we would have towed your car half an hour ago."

Posted on October 20, 2004 to Storytelling


"Cosmic Calvary"? Not to get all English major-y on you or anything, but I'm assuming that you weren't referring to old Baptist hymns, and you really meant "Cavalry." ;^)

Great story. Such providential events have been happening to me more and more these days...

Posted by: Hannah on October 21, 2004 11:34 AM

Lucky indeed, though luckier still would be running out of gas near a gas station. And while I do not consider myself lucky in love or lotto, I have managed to run out of gas in close proximity to a gas station. Twice. The first time was on my birthday (unlucky), but I was right across the street from a gas station (lucky) and with a friend who was willing to steer while I pushed (a wash because I had to push the car on my birthday). The second time I was a few blocks from a gas station (unlucky), but at the crest of a hill (lucky). I managed to push the car down the hill and jump in without killing anyone (dumb/lucky) and coasted to the bottom of the hill where there were two gas stations. The one one the left was usually cheaper (if ever one is cheaper) and I had a red light and was thus able to make a lazy coasting left across Westwood Boulevard and into the first pump (which was open, lucky).

Posted by: agrippa_cash on October 21, 2004 1:14 PM

It's all your perspective: A negative person would have said "can you believe the bad luck that I would run out of gas on the bridge?" but you, turning your frown upside down, said "hey, look how lucky I was not to have my car hit or towed!" (I know, not an exact quote.)

Anyway, I think that's a good way of looking at it, and if more people looked at the events in their lives with the same optimism and positive thinking they would find that, in fact, they too are very lucky.

People typically don't have faith that the universe will take care of them, and they tend to focus on the negative. But not you! :D

Posted by: steph on October 21, 2004 1:44 PM

Accentuate the positive! Eliminate the negative!

I'm descended from a long line of leprechauns myself (well, okay, my mother's family is Irish). At one place I used to work, people always wanted to take me out to lunch because whenever I did, someone at the table would almost always get free food because of a service mistake.

The crowning achievement of my luck was when my party of five visited Pizza Hut (me, my parents, my sister, and one of her friends). In the car on the way to the restaurant, I had informed them of my tendency to get free food. Well, as it happened, the kitchen got our order wrong. While we were waiting for our order to be re-made, the waiter gave us the wrong pizzas at no charge. And then they didn't charge us for the two correct pizzas because it took so long. So, five people, four large pizzas, total price about $5 for drinks, resulting in a full meal plus enough leftovers for a nutritious breakfast the next morning. I made a few believers that day.

This doesn't happen to me much anymore, but it was a regular occurence in my life for years.

Posted by: Jerry Kindall on October 21, 2004 3:22 PM

I must say, I can't recall how I found your wondrous blog, but I truly relish the stories you tell. Yay for great storytelling and positive luck and cosmic forces that sway on this side of good!

Posted by: Giao on October 21, 2004 3:43 PM

The one (and only) time I ran out of gas happened to be on the freeway at rush hour. I was right on the edge of town with the nearest gas station approximately 10 blocks away.

Fortunately it happened at a time when ALL THE PHONE SERVICE in my city was down for some as yet unexplained reason. :(

When I arrived at the gas station, I was told the cheap so-and-so's didn't have a jerry can to lend out and that I would have to buy one. I considered returning it to them filled with urine, but 20 litres is a lot to fill, even for me.

Posted by: Deron on October 22, 2004 12:59 AM

So you're one of those people who runs out of gas on the floating bridge causing backups for miles and miles and miles. I never would have expected this from you.

Posted by: Duane on October 22, 2004 8:18 AM

ha.... I've been pulling that pizzeria raffle scam for years. - yeah baby I just spent my last five bucks on a whim and a prayer. I'm dangerous and spontanious.

"54678!" Oh? Oh-ha-ha hey I won. You wanna go back to my place for some pizza and drinks.

Posted by: porkchop on October 22, 2004 8:54 AM

Are you kidding, Duane. The last time I rode with Matthew he left the Queen's car on fumes. He's just lucky she didn't punch him.

Posted by: ranger on October 22, 2004 9:39 AM

Are you kidding, Duane. The last time I rode with Matthew he left the Queen's car on fumes. He's just lucky she didn't punch him.

Posted by: ranger on October 22, 2004 9:39 AM

My theory is conservation of luck. You sucked up allllll the good luck of the other people on the bridge so that you would have the good luck to avoid the towing. And everybody else had to balance the universe with bad luck and had to take twice as long to get home.

That's amazing. I didn't realize that those were real people blocking the traffic....

Posted by: YLG on October 22, 2004 1:52 PM

Awesome story. Truly.
But I couldn't help but think - what if the squirrely was with him? And in thinking that I was overwhelmed with anxiety. Dude as someone who hates cell phones - I live in L.A. where people abuse them regularly - I do carry one for the I'm late, I'm lost, HELP ME calls that may need to be made. I refuse to be enslaved by a "cellular plan" so I use Verizon's free up dealio where for $15 dollars a month I get 45 minutes which is more than enough.
I'm just sayin.

Posted by: susie on October 22, 2004 5:17 PM

I know exactly how you feel. I used to say to people - "I must be the luckiest guy alive". Now I just realize that if you just go with the flow, things will just work out. You just have to learn to follow your intuition and quit fighting the universe with your ego. And yes, negativity is the most dangerous weapon you have. What you have to try to do now is stop verbalizing your negative predictions. They have a tendency to materialize. I have examples like yours that happen almost daily now. So - way to go with the flow!

Posted by: Karl on October 23, 2004 8:35 AM