Everybody has heard of Murphy’s Law, but few probably know where it originated. According to a website called Murphys-Law.com, in an excerpt from The Desert Wings, it originated in 1949 at Edwards Air Force Base at North Base. It was named after Capt. Edward A. Murphy, an engineer working on Air Force Project MX981, [a project] designed to see how much sudden deceleration a person can stand in a crash.
One day, after finding that a transducer was wired wrong, he cursed the technician responsible and said, “If there is any way to do it wrong, he’ll find it.” The contractor’s project manager kept a list of “laws” and added this one, which he called Murphy’s Law. But the actual law that most think of when they think of Murphy’s law has been around for hundreds of years, and was originally known as sod’s law in Yorkshire, England. It stated that “if anything can go wrong, it will,” because it would happen to any poor sod who needed such a catastrophic event the least. Because of the negative conotation associated with the name “sod,” the name Murphy stuck as being less offensive.
Regardless of where it comes from, the saying has certainly been applicable to my wife and I lately. The first time it reared its ugly head was when we went to replace our two toilets. Both were original equipment in our 23-year old house, and mine had begun to leak like a sieve, causing our water bill to grow exponentially. We found a great deal on toilets at our local Home Depot, bought them, and arranged for our plumber to install them. Piece of cake, right? Wrong, camel breath. Even though my toilet was most in need of replacement, Becky told the plumber to install hers first. Fine. No problem. Then came mine. Everything went swimmingly . . . until we restored the flow of water. Now, rather than water from the tank just leaking into the commode, it was leaking onto my floor! Three times our plumber disassembled the tank from the commode, and three times he reassembled it. Same result.
Not a problem, I thought. I had the receipt; I’d just return the defective one for a new one. I called the store, and the nimrod who answered said I had to bring the defective one back first, before they could give me a new one. I explained that I didn’t want to have to pay the plumber to come back again, so couldn’t I just leave a deposit (or my driver’s license) and pick up the new one? I assured him that I would bring the defective unit back right away, as soon as the new one was installed. Nope. Rules were rules (laws were laws?). I spoke to a manager, and he told me that they couldn’t take back the old one at all. “Why not?” I asked. Apparently, because of some federal regulation, it had to be taken to a landfill. But, I could just come to the store and they would give me a new one. Oh, yeah, who was going to pay for the “re-installation?” They wouldn’t, I was told, but I could try the manufacturer.
So I did. I wrote a letter explaining my dilemma, and asked them for reimbursement. A week or so later I heard back. They would reimburse me for the additional installation and the fee to dispose of the toilet at the landfill. Yippee! I crafted a receipt for the additional cost, and emailed it in right away. Not so fast. I received an email back from the manufacture. They were sorry to inform me that “unfortunately, this is not a valid format and will need a proper invoice sheet. Please have your plumber provide you with a valid invoice sheet.” So now I have to bother my plumber (I paid him in cash) for a “proper invoice sheet,” whatever the heck that is. Murphy strikes again!!
Next case: “The New TV.”
As many of you already know, my wife recently insisted that I move my office up from the basement to one of our spare bedrooms on the main floor. Wunderbar, I thought. At last I would have daylight minus the endearing aroma of two cat litter boxes. I painted the new room, brought everything upstairs, and for a day or two I was ecstatic. But something was missing. After all, I now had not just an office, but a “man cave.” And a decent man cave needs a big screen TV, right? Right. Oh, and since Black Friday was only a day or two away, it seemed as if the whole thing were almost preordained. I was going to score a really terrific deal. And I did. At least I thought I did. I found a 49-inch model of one of those newfangled 4K ultra-high definition, smart TVs at HHGregg, and immediately made the purchase online. The email receipt said I could pick it up in two days at their store in Asheville. Terrific. I just had to wait for the confirmation email that would tell me my TV was ready to be picked up. Nirvana. Well, not quite. More like nerve endings!
Are you starting to get the same feeling that I was? Well, here’s what happened. The pickup date came and went. No confirmation email. Where was my TV? I called the store and “Mr. Murphy” told me the bad news. The truck had come and gone, and there were no more of my chosen TVs available. I’d just have to “re-select.” But I didn’t want to re-select, I told him! Okay, they’d give me a slightly upgraded model for the same price. Now they were talking. “Fine, I’ll come by and pick it up tomorrow,” I told him. I went back to the Internet and ordered a wall mount from Amazon. It would arrive two days later, just in time for me to attach the new TV to the wall in my office. I was ready.
For some reason, I decided to call the store first the next day, before taking the ride. Guess what? Mr. Murphy (not his real name) said that the upgraded version he had promised would not be available for at least another two weeks. I frantically began poring over the HHGregg website for another TV that would be acceptable. No deal. Either too much moola, or they were out of stock. I hit every website of every electronics stores I could find. I figured I could locate something somewhere else, get a refund on the one I had “purchased,” and buy a different one at another store. I read review upon review, but each time I thought I had found the TV that would set my heart a flutter, there was a catch. They were all out of stock. I wanted my TV, and I wanted it now! HH Gregg had me by the short hairs.
(Here’s where it gets really good.) I went in an entirely different direction. Since there are very few movies or TV shows broadcast in 4K (don’t ask me to explain), I decided I didn’t really need 4K after all. Our 47″ 1080i HD set had been doing the job quite admirably for nearly five years, and all that was missing was the “smart” part. I’d just find a bigger HD model and I’d be happy as a clam. Back to the Internet I went. More ads, more reviews, and finally—I say finally—I found the behemoth I desired: a FIFTY-FIVE inch, 1080i HD, smart TV for the unbelievably low, low price of (sorry, but if I tell you, I might bring down an empire). But, of course, there was a catch. The price I wanted to pay was at Best Buy, but I needed to get it at HH Gregg. I held my breath and called the latter. Would they match the price, I asked. Yes, they said, but I’d have to travel to Greenville, SC to get the TV. Okay, Greenville’s only—what?—an hour away. I’d do it. “Better call first,” said Becky. I called. A nice young lady assured me that they had plenty in stock, but, just in case, she would put one on the side for me. Great. Let’s go get it!
I’d never been to that particular store, but not to worry. My new smart phone (there’s that adjective again) said it could direct me there, turn by turn, no problem. Oh really? Big problem! My smart phone was a bit challenged. We ended up going through the very worst part of the city, stopping at every light, and arriving almost two hours later. The parking lot was deserted. Not a good sign. Were they closed? Did they even have my TV? They were open, and they did have my TV. Surprise! There it was, right at the register—and with a little note attached: “Hold for Joe.” The paperwork was examined and everything looked good, but there as a catch. I had to sign something. “What’s this?” I asked. “Oh, it’s nothing. It seems as though you’re getting a four dollar refund.” Must be a catch, you’re thinking. There was. The sales tax in South Carolina is less than that of its sister in the north. Ergo: refund of the difference. Now I was truly happy.
Oh, I almost forgot. You know that TV wall mount I ordered from Amazon? It never got here! Yet another email arrived last night, this one from Amazon, informing me that the package had been damaged in transit, and although they normally would just reship, the order was being canceled and I’d have to re-order. Oh, Murphy! So now . . .