My checkbook went missing today.
That event, in and of itself, isn’t particularly interesting or noteworthy, but it provides support for a principle I call The Perversity of Inanimate Objects. It goes something like this:
1. There is no such thing as a truly inanimate object. All “inanimate” objects possess some rudimentary form of motive energy, life force, orneriness, or whatever you wish to call it.
2. This force is generally evil, or it just hates me in particular.
3. This force consistently causes objects to behave in a manner directly opposite to my will, no matter the statistical unlikelihood of the behavior.
Unlike Murphy’s Law, this principle doesn’t posit an indifferent universal mechanism that makes everything tend to go wrong. This is intentional, and personal. Using the missing checkbook as an example, I really, REALLY, needed the checkbook this morning. Therefore, it vanished from where I left it, a backpack containing a plethora of unnecessary items, and will remain unfindable until I have done irreparable damage to my credit rating or have found a way to circumvent the urgent need to write a check. The other items in the backpack have remained precisely in place for months, no matter how little I care about them or wish to be rid of them. If I try to dispose of them, they will find their way home.
Other examples: LAN cables that coil themselves around my feet like hungry pythons. Nails that lay on the road at the precise angle necessary to embed themselves in my supposedly impervious steel-belted radials. Pebbles that acquire amazing elastic, aerodynamic, and heat-seeking qualities as they merrily bounce their way from their leaky gravel truck to my windshield. Coins that navigate themselves into impossible crevices, usually within delicate machinery I can’t afford to repair. Extension cords that tie themselves into topologically-impossible knots or seek out and embrace metal objects with keen edges. The list goes on.
I couldn’t make these things happen consistently if I tried. Rocks and cords and coins and checkbooks, however, unerringly find the single point of failure in any system and exploit it mercilessly. And the more I care about something, the more likely it is for any inanimate object necessary to its successful achievement to violate the laws of physics and/or probability and frustrate my intentions.
So, the surest way to find any missing item is to simply stop looking for it, and to suppress any conscious feeling of need for it. At that point, I won’t need to search any more…the prodigal will find me.
Ah, there it is!