It’s an old adage, commonly referred to as Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
Here I sit in Frankfurt, Germany – between worlds. Behind me is the old world of Greece, a world I have lived in for over sixteen years, a world in which I have created homes, raised children, worked a job, formed habits. It was a good world for many years, and yet when it became dysfunctional a change was required. Often when circumstances necessitate a change it is unexpected, and so it was in this case. I fully expected to live out my years in Greece, retire there. But then the floor collapsed and the entire system fell through. No nation of people should have to go through what Greeks are going through right now. Be that as it may, I had to rouse myself from semi-somnambulism, the feeling that I had arrived and had to go no further, and start again from scratch.
The destination? The USA. I haven’t lived there for thirty-five years. I have lived in India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, Italy, and Greece, but not in the country in which I was born and raised. It is like another world to me. I have lived longer outside it than in. Now, after all these years, I approach it as I would an alien planet. What is it like to live there now? I know what it was like in the 1970s, but now? I have made brief visits but I have not immersed myself in the culture, the economy, the politics, the ambiance, for a long time. I approach the situation with excitement, with anticipation, but with trepidation as well.
So one would think that the anticipation of having to cope with a new environment would be enough, and the technical preparations would be clear sailing, right?
In the days before departure so many things went wrong I wondered if there was some malevolent force opposing my journey.
First of all, with a long detailed list of things to do all over the city of Thessaloniki, our car broke down. It wasn’t a small thing either. The engine had to be taken apart and the gaskets replaced. It took two days, two days during which if I wanted to go into town I had to take the bus. The problem was, our house is in a village outside the city and busses are infrequent. In addition, you have to go to a hub on the east side from which other busses go further into town. Any bit of business takes hours of transport time, during which you change from bus to bus, at each transition waiting an interminable amount of time.
We got the car back, then my computer broke down. I had to have the computer because I was finalizing all my travel plans online. Not just a minor problem, either. The software had become corrupted and the whole system had to be reformatted. I lost data, programs, and worst of all, time. Time that I could not afford to lose.
So, finally, computer repaired and car functioning properly, in the last two days before departure I valiantly set out to do a weeks’ worth of business in two days. Only to discover that the offices in which I had to do the business had changed their systems of operation, and the way I had been doing it for years was no longer the way it was currently done. No effort had been made to inform the unwary public, and even as I went from office to office it took me a long time to realize what was up, as many of the municipal workers, caught up in the throes of their own financial problems, did not take the trouble to explain why things were not functioning as they used to. Government aid programs had been closed down. Money which I used to apply for and obtain every year and which we counted on as part of our income was no longer available. And so I went from office to office beating my head against proverbial walls, finally to realize that it had all been in vain.
My final bit of frustration happened here in Frankfurt. I was exhausted on the flight, having had only two hours of sleep the night before. Finally I arrived at Frankfurt Airport, got off the plane, wandered through the long, long terminal corridors with my heavy carry-on luggage to baggage claim. I had booked a nearby inexpensive hotel that had a shuttle service, and the shuttle (as well as the cheap room rate) was one of the reasons I booked this hotel and not another. I waited for the shuttle and arrived at the hotel only to discover that by mistake I had been booked in their downtown hotel, not the one near the airport, and that there was no shuttle to that hotel. I returned to the airport to find other transport options only to learn that I had to pay an exorbitant price for a taxi which I couldn’t afford. I called the hotel near the airport again, explained the situation, and asked if they could switch the reservation to their location (all the while kicking myself for not asking when I was still there). At least this story has a happy ending. I eventually managed to stay at the right hotel, where I am at this moment happily ensconced.
The point of all this? Things go wrong, even to the best-laid plans. Count on it. Plan for it. But sometimes even when you plan meticulously, as I did, things will still pop up to disrupt your careful calculations, create havoc with your detailed to-do lists, cause you to question whether you are off the track and have made the wrong decision after all. But if you know you are doing the right thing, remain resolute. Things will work out in the end. Persist. Endure. The time will come when you will break through the obstacles to the victory.
And I have to admit that Murphy’s Law is not really true, at least not to the extreme. Many, many more things could have gone wrong, but didn’t.