Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ticket to good karma

According to our studies in psychology, we face life and its daily challenges utilizing either an internal or external locus of control. Those individuals driven by an internal locus believe they have the ability to take control of their own destiny; they make things happen, they create their successes, and they take charge of their life.  In direct opposition are those controlled by an external locus. These are the ones who rely on karma, fate, good luck, bad luck, happenstance, chance, superstition and the roll of the dice.  Nothing they can do or say will change the “que sera, sera” of life…whatever will be, will be. 
I’m not sure exactly where I fall along the continuum; some days, I’m a Donald Trump, out there moving and shaking and making the world happen, grabbing onto my internal locus and having a heck of a ride. Other days, I’m  Eeyore….just a depressed little donkey with no hope, no motivation, no good karma, and literally drowning in my own external locus of just plain old bad luck. 
But for my husband, today definitely began as an Eeyore kind of day. That crazy ole karma was on a downward roll, and his external locus of control was in full-throttle overdrive. 
Chris called me early in the morning, I can’t remember quite why, but I do remember that he was emphatic about the fact that this was going to be a bad day.  He had to run from one end of Richmond to the other, crossing boundaries and city lines and county borders: Hanover in the morning, Chesterfield in the afternoon, downtown, uptown, east end, west end, just circling the loop as he rushed from appointment to appointment.   He had to find time in all of that looping to run home and let the dogs out for a potty break, otherwise he would have an unwelcome wagon greeting him at the door that evening. There were problems with this and problems with that, and nothing he could do would change the fact that all the new government regulations were making the simple business of doing business an impossible nightmare.  To finish off an already hectic day, when he got home that evening, he had to take Alf to doggie school…remedial doggie school at that. Alf was the only child we’ve ever had, furry or not, to flunk school, and it was humiliating to have to haul him back in for lessons on such simple tasks as “Sit”, “Stay”, and “Come.”  At home, he had mastered “Watch me eat this entire roast beef”, as well as “If you think I’m moving off this couch then you’re crazy,” but the basic commands were still a bit of a problem, and Alf was repeating the second grade.
So as he rushed from point A to point B, focused on phone numbers and addresses and loan amounts and mortgages, paying attention to every kind of number except the one on his speedometer, Chris got pulled for speeding.  Dashing through a 35 MPH zone, hurrying to his next appointment,  the blue lights of a motorcycle cop flashed in his rear-view mirror and the strident call of the siren echoed through the car.  He glanced at the speedometer, knew he’d been nailed,  so he slowly pulled over to the edge of the road, rolled down his window, and handed over his license. 
He started with the mandatory, “Was I speeding, officer? I thought it was a 45 MPH zone,” which translates into “Do you really have to do this or can you just give me a warning?” Speeding is one thing, but speeding through a school zone is another, and once again, there was nothing he could do to change his fate, his destiny, his externally controlled situation. The officer's face said this was definitely a non-negotiable transaction and no amount of pleading or bargaining was going to change the outcome.   To make matters worse, when the officer asked for the registration to the car, the only one Chris could find in the glove compartment was an expired version, the recently renewed version being safely tucked into the back of my wallet all the way down in South Carolina.  Yep, things were definitely out of his control at this point.
The good thing about living an externally controlled life is that sometimes, the dice rolls over, lady luck is smiling, you draw an ace and a king, and you find the four - leaf clover. Chris’s karma was about to change.
As the officer strolled back to his idling motorcycle to write up the ticket, Chris watched him in the rear view mirror.  He saw the officer straddle the bike and begin to write up the ticket, and as he waited for the dreaded verdict, Chris did some mental calculations about the effect another speeding ticket would have on his insurance premiums,  his chances of making his next appointment on time, how he could recoup the lost minutes in an already too-busy day.  But then, as Chris watched him through the mirror, the officer appeared to grow agitated and stopped writing on his clipboard.  He fiddled with some controls on the bike, turned some switches off and on, got off the bike, walked around it with a puzzled look on his face, rattled the frame a little, then finally picked up his hand-held radio and began an animated conversation with some unseen force on the other side.   After ending his conversation and putting his radio back onto his belt, he walked to the car, thrust the license and invalid registration back through the window, and said to Chris,
" Slow down when you're driving. You can leave."
 No ticket had been issued, not even a warning.
“This is odd,” my husband thought, as he glanced back at the officer. That was when he realized that the source of his good luck was not some unseen mystical spirit or a benevolent force at the end of a radio line,  but rather a broken down motorcycle.  The officer’s mode of transportation, his lifeline to the police station, his only means of verifying driver’s license and vehicle registration, his travelling office-- all was ka-put, ka-plooey, on the blink, out-of-order.  Talk about karma! Whew!
Chris rolled his window back down, leaned his head out, and in his most pleasant talking-to-an-officer voice, politely asked, “Do you need some help?”
“Can I give you a jump start? How about a lift?”
“Just get out of here,” the disgruntled officer replied, perhaps somewhat embarrassed at his equipment malfunction, maybe frustrated that his day had suddenly taken a trip down Broke Down Lane, could have been just a guy thing, but Chris didn’t ask twice. He hit the road at an appropriately safe and perfectly legal 35 MPH and got the heck out of there before his luck changed. 
Karma comes, and karma goes, and you better know which way to roll.

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