Some find the concept of Karma reassuring. “I’m a good person, therefore, the universe is nice to me.” The concept of Karma, in the hands of a neurotic like myself, can be a prison sentence, like having a Siamese twin who’s a back seat driver. “You know you missed your train because you cut that person off at the toll plaza.” “You shouldn’t have given your neighbor the finger. That’s why you stubbed your toe.”
My karma’s not all bad. If I find a good parking spot, I’ll think it’s because I gave money to juvenile diabetes at the grocery store. If I manage to get the last everything bagel at my local café, it’s because I had helped an old woman cross the street.
Such was my thinking the other day when I went to pick up a piece of paper from the floor of my office, and as I lifted my head, I whacked it on the corner of a bookcase, nearly knocking myself out. I put my two-year old son, Eddie, in the bath, and as I got showered and dressed next to him, he pooped in the bathtub. I tried to scoop the stool out with his plastic dump truck, but it kept breaking up in my hands. I hosed Eddie down and went to put him on our bed to get dressed, but my husband had rolled around the beach in his pants and there was now about a quart of sand all over our bedspread, coating my son’s wet body like breading on a chicken cutlet.
Things didn’t go any better down in the kitchen. As I made Eddie an omelet, I tried to coat the pan with butter, but it wouldn’t come off the knife so I flicked it, and it went all over the wall. I then burnt the omelet and in trying to salvage it, wound up serving my son what looked like a plate of confetti. He tried to eat it, but pieces of egg kept falling into his lap and onto the floor so I grabbed a dish towel to spread out on his lap to catch the food. But as I opened it, I saw it was encrusted with food, as if someone had used it to wipe up tomato, and the seeds were now dried into the cloth as if they were part of the pattern. I wasn’t sure what I’d done now to deserve this spate of mishaps but I was sure it was something.
I dropped Eddie off at day care and then rushed over to my local café to have breakfast and work for a few hours. I sat near the window, as I usually do, but after a few minutes, a massive 18-wheeler truck parked in front of the café, blocking all of the natural light.
It seemed incongruous to see such a large truck in our small town. In parking there, the truck not only took up half the road, but the whole line of cars parked diagonally in front of the café were now blocked in. For the first time all morning, I felt lucky: I’d parked farther down the street.
Just then I noticed my friend, George, walking briskly down the street, his cell phone in his hand, seeming like he was in crisis. I figured his was among the cars now blocked in. Moments later, the truck moved. Good fortune must have smiled on George, given how quickly he was able to locate the driver.
Suddenly, there was commotion in the street a few doors down from the café. A waiter from the café ran outside to see what happened. He returned and said as the truck had driven down the street, its trailer was too tall, and it pulled down a power line, which came crashing down on a few cars. I feared my car was among those damaged, but the waiter described the cars that had been hit and neither was mine. It turns out one of them belonged to George. When the power line came down, it took a tree limb with it, and it fell on George’s windshield.
I picked up my son, and we drove to the grocery store to pick up some items for dinner. The lot was full but as I went up the aisle looking for parking, I saw the spot designated for “patrons with small children” was empty. That never happens. Perhaps my luck was changing.
As we walked into the store, it was so sunny I put on my sunglasses. We shopped for about twenty minutes and headed back out to the parking lot. As we emerged from the store, the skies opened up, and there was a torrential downpour. We were not going to be able to get to the car without getting soaked. Perhaps my luck wasn’t changing after all.
I waited with my son, who was still seated in the grocery cart, under a roof just outside the store’s entrance, hoping the rain would pass. As I stared out at the parking lot, looking at the deep puddles already forming, I noticed a man at the far end of the lot walking slowly toward the store, completely oblivious to the rain. He was about 80 and was wearing a pastel blue golf shirt. As people ran past him, ducking down as if that would help keep them drier, the man strolled leisurely across the lot as if it wasn’t raining at all.
“You seemed completely unphased by that rain. I wondered whether you were even getting wet,” I said as he got closer.
“A little water never hurt anybody,” he said and smiled.
As he walked off, I thought the world is divided into two kinds of people: those who need everything to go right in order to be happy, and those who can be happy regardless of how things go. I wished I was the latter. I vowed to try harder.
Just then, the rain stopped and the sun came out. I pushed my son in the grocery cart toward our car. For now, I still need the sun to shine in order to smile.