Just one of those unlucky lucky days

 
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By Christian Nielsen

Unlucky days can sometimes turn out to be a different kind of lucky… the tortuous variety.

Thursday 2 November 2017

One recent Saturday, the day after my birthday, as it happens, has officially become my unlucky, lucky day. It started as usual with a breakfast of yoghurt and shouting.

The yoghurt was a prune bifidus-laced concoction (tastier than it sounds) and the shouting was to rouse the pre-teen who was running late for karate practice. Or was it football? I forget which … but I can’t forget what followed.

Practice takes an hour. Just long enough for a run in the nearby forest and a coffee or drink on the terrace outside the club. The run started oddly, as a mobile home tried to park on top of a Mini Cooper. But watching the couple piloting the Belgian-plated behemoth argue about the spatial disconnect between 6m-long vehicles and city parking places gave me time to untangle my earphones and warm up.

Suitably armoured with tunes for the run, I headed off with my keys in one pocket and the music player in the other. The sun was shining. The woods were empty. It was going to be a great day.

I churned through the kilometres and my play-list pretty well, spurning the occasional slow one. As I approached the last bend of my circuit, I began feeling around in my pocket for my keys.

A guy on a dented old Puge moped cruised past carrying a giant smoothie blitzer on a pole (Now duly confirmed as a portable cement mixer!). Odd, I thought. But that little mystery quickly gave way to another much bigger one. One of those ‘Oh shit!’ moments, when you instantly realise you dropped the keys to your life somewhere in the wilderness.

Obviously, with headphones on I didn’t hear them clink to the ground as they fell through a surprisingly large hole in the right pocket of my shorts. The unpleasant task before me was to retrace every step for kilometres! I must have lost them early on the circuit, I concluded, so headed in the same clock-wise direction.

As I was about to disappear into the woods, the putt-putt of the Puge got louder again. The old guy riding it pulled up right next to me, planted his therapeutic shoes on the ground and said in Flemish, “You lost your keys, right!” The confidence of the statement stunned me. Then, before my eyes I saw them, dangling from his gloved fist.

I reached out for them like a child receiving undeserved sweets. He said he’d been riding around looking for the make of car matching the key fob in case I returned to it. As luck would have it, he was just about to give up the search and leave the keys with the police.

How about that for timing? I could have kissed the bloke, but a hand shake and a farewell saw him pedal/scoot off in a puff of blue smoke. This is my unlucky, lucky day I said to myself as I fished around in my other pocket for the tiny iPod that I could still hear in one ear playing an old favourite called ‘You’re in a mess this time’ by Australian band, the Falling Joys.

As the little metal wonder surfaced from the stupidest and deepest of pockets, I stumbled on the curb and dropped it. Did my unlucky luck hold up? Did it land on the grass or the concrete? Did it land face-down or on the metal shell?

Yepp, you guessed it … slap-down on the glass cover, right on the corner of the guttering. Damn it! But, you know what, shattered glass or not it still works fine. So, depending on where you fall on the half-glass full or empty character test, it was not the worst result.

When I got home and showered, life was feeling pretty fortuitous, so I thought it was time to dust off the manuscript and use the positive energy to visualise that final chapter. The words flowed, the plot came together, the planets aligned… until I heard a peep like an injured bird with a mechanical voice box. The screen went blank.

Normally, I’m reasonably anal about backups but with the chaos of the summer months, I quickly discovered the last one was over six weeks ago. My financial files, two days of work on a project due the next day (a paying job), and of course the product of several hours of epiphanous scribbling on the manuscript. All gone.

It was only 4 o’clock and the IT shop in town was still open, so I gathered up the ageing Acer, cables and stuff and high-tailed it down there. First thing the technician asked (Wait for it?) is whether I have a backup. No, I bloody don’t is what I wanted to say, but admitted to being a little out of date with that. The disappointment, for that is what it was, in his eyes was palpable. Another person had failed his ultimate test.

He tried starting it with the battery pack still in. Dead. He tried without the battery pack. Dead. He plugged in his universal power cable thingie to my computer, and I followed his nail-bitten finger as it headed, in slow motion it felt, towards the power button. He held it down for a second or two. I held my breath. A blue light flickered, the electric bird beeped.

Hallelujah, Acer! Another kissing instinct (What was getting into me with all these emotions?) parsed thankfully into a hand-shake and I was out the door with a new cable.

This was truly the unluckiest lucky day I could ever expect to have. I was pinching myself as I fired up the laptop at home, instantly connecting the portable backup drive. Whir, clunk, flash, loading symbols. All good, I dared to hope and then the bird beeped again. Blackness overcame the scene.

By this time, I was beside myself. Straight back into the car and down to the IT shop I headed. The technician went through the same heart-sinking tests, scratched his head a couple of times and called back to his colleague, “You reckon 90 watts is enough for the bits, bells, amp, bobs, volte face…?” and other stuff I didn’t follow. “No, you need the 120 watt unit!”

And just like that, with 120 watts of pure unadulterated torture surging through the Acer and me, the blue light reappeared like a beacon of all things pure and good. I backed up to the cloud all of the stuff I really needed right there in the shop. There was no way I was going to further challenge the kismet-induced power of this very special Saturday, the day after my birthday.

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