THAT AMAZING, INEXPLICABLE, ASTONISHING POWER
Chances are, you've seen it too.
It is a powerful, potent force...one that we can't control. The best we can hope to do is keep it in check, for once it is released it is punishing and unstoppable.
And that is too bad...for if we could harness it and turn its considerable power to good use I could render the world a safe and happy place.
What is this power of which I speak? It is THE POWER of the jinx.
And if the number of people who are being extra careful to avoid it are any indication, this is a widely known, feared and believed in phenomenon.
I was talking with a coworker yesterday...let's call her Donna. Donna was telling me how she had worn a particular reminder of her husband every day for the 400+ days they have been deployed. It has become a ritual for her...rise, dress, and add this particular bit to her ensemble.
"I can't stop doing it," Donna told me, "because if I do something will happen and the soldiers won't come home when they are supposed to. I'm sure of it."
I smiled at Donna...and felt that I had found in her one who would understand.
"Interesting that you say that," I said to Donna. "You see, when the 1st Armor Division was extended in April, well, it pains me to say this but it was my fault! Really!"
"You see," I explained to Donna, "five days before my darling wife was due home it was time for me to change the password on my computer. I wanted something I'd remember easily, so I thought I'd use the date that she would be home as my new password."
"I did this", I went on, "in spite of the fact that this voice in my head - I know now it was the voice of THE POWER - told me not to. Warned me not to! But I ignored the voice, set the password, and two days later...she and the others were extended. Just so that THE POWER behind the jinx could slap me and show me what a miserable, presumptious little twit I am by attempting to 'predict the future'. My setting that password sealed the fate of the 1st Armor Division."
Donna nodded her head. It was clear she could relate to my tale of the unforgiving force.
I went on: "I should have known better...because I had already caused her return to be delayed once already."
"Really? How did that happen", Donna asked.
"Right after Christmas I started posting on her website how many more days CPT Patti had to go in her command. Actually, I wasn't quite that bold...I phrased it 'X days more of scheduled command'."
"And did that turn out to be true?"
"Yes...precisely true" I replied.
"Yeah...I know what you are thinking...how did that alter the date that she was to return to Germany? Well, apparently THE POWER is very smart and not easily duped. It can read one's mind. All I can figure is that THE POWER knew in my heart I was keeping a calendar that added a few days to the number she had left (scheduled!) in her command. THE POWER knew when I published what appeared to be a 'command schedule' it was code for a 'return schedule'. As a result, THE POWER caused the Army to publish a new Stop-Loss/Stop-Movement message just so my wife couldn't come home on schedule."
"So, you see, in the end, it is my fault. This whole thing was my fault. Had it not been for my arrogance in the face of THE POWER who knows how long ago the 1AD might have come home?"
Donna looked at me with a kindness, born of kinship. "Don't beat yourself up too bad", she said. "You had help."
I gave her that inquisitive look seen on the faces of the guilty in search of ex post facto confederates.
"I redid the living room", she said. "It was sort of at the last minute I got this idea for a totally new look. I rushed out, bought fabric and sewed non-stop for two-days and nights in order to finish. And it was beautiful."
I was perplexed. "But how did that..."
"Affect their coming home? Simple. The deadline I set for myself was the date Jack was supposed to leave Baghdad."
Donna shifted in her seat and pulled a cushion across her chest as if to shield her.
"You are right" she went on. "THE POWER knows the moment you begin to make assumptions about the future. As near as I can tell my new living room decor is responsible for the creation of that army of thugs raised by al Sadr. I had never heard one peep about them until the night I finished my living room. Then...WHAM!"
Donna and I sat in silence for a moment, pondering powers beyond our abilities to comprehend. Finally, I spoke.
"I remember when I first suspected the existence of THE POWER. My coach sort of alluded to it. It was in the midst of a little leage football game. I played for the Wade Hampton Cherokees...and we were in a tied game; unusual for us. I played offense...so I was standing on the sidelines watching the other team move the ball on our defense. They had the ball down near our own 15 yard line. Coach Sherman looked around and yelled at those of us on the sidelines."
"You guys better holler for our defense!", he said. "They won't stop them if you don't holler?"
"That is when it struck me. There was a POWER overseeing this earth...and if I did not behave as it required of me, it would arrange things to punish me."
"What did you do?", Donna asked.
"I hollered, of course. And ever since I've felt as if I am reponsible every time something goes wrong...everything involving me, that is. Am I stuck in an immovable Stau on the autobahn and about to be late for a meeting? Most certainly it is because I gave someone my word I would be there. Did Brett Favre have a bad game and the Packers lost to the Vikings? Its because I didn't show the required level of dedication to the team by staying up after midnight to watch it here in Germany."
Donna nodded, absent mindedly fingering the charm on the chain around her neck...the one she must wear or face the consequences.
Then I was struck by a new thought.
"Why is it...I mean, how did it happen that this POWER exists - and yet it can only be used to hurt the ones we love the most? What cruel joke is it that by merely buying a bag of Vanilla Bean flavored coffee so that my darling wife can have her favorite when she arrives home...that simple act can alter the course of humanity - but only to the detriment of me, my wife, and those connected to her?"
I rose and began to pace.
"Why doesn't this POWER work toward good? If there were any justice in this power I'd be able to buy a birthday present for Kim Jung Il today, thereby ensuring he doesn't live to see his next birthday and several million North Koreans would be liberated as a result. Does THE POWER have no conscience...no sense of fair play?"
"I've never noticed it working for good either" Donna replied. "It only seems to punish...for things you do or, sometimes, for things you forget to do."
"I'm curious", I said. "Do you think this is the same power that comes into play when folks walk under a ladder, or a black cat crosses one's path?".
Donna gave that some thought. "No", she said finally. "But I think they are related. I think this one must be the big brother of the cats and ladders variety. It is much more cunning and insidious."
"But in some ways we are lucky", she went on. "The worst that has happened to us is a delay in our guys returning home. Imagine being the poor slob who said to his son 'I promise that on Sunday we'll play an entire 18 holes of golf' and was on the seventh tee when THE POWER sent the Japanese to bomb Pearl Harbor, just to prove him wrong."
"Ouch! I never thought about it like that. Oh my goodness...think of the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. That might have happened just because someone got too smug about having tickets to that World Series game!"
Donna nodded vigorously. "Right...and just imagine," she said, "what must have poor Amelia Earhart done for THE POWER to slap her down so viciously!"
I looked at my watch. It was nearly five.
"Well...I'm gonna pack up and go", I said to Donna. "Enjoyed talking with you."
After I shut down the computer and turned off the lights I passed by Donna's office where she was also packing up.
"I'll see you tomorrow", I said. And immediately wished I hadn't. Who knows what nature of wrath such presumptive arrogance might bring.