No one ever defined the opposite of excrement, but I suspect you know what I mean. France lost the European Soccer Cup but just won its second World Cup.
I’ve been lucky most of my life, though like you I’ve had my share of knocks. Recently I had a day that was a particularly good one. I didn’t win the lottery, inherit a fortune or receive the Nobel for the world’s most brilliant blog (if a score of Bob Dylan’s songs deserved it, surely my 800 posts do). When you discover my stroke of good luck, you may not be quite as ecstatic as I. But I find it hard to believe, almost as much as the incredible good fortune that preceded it, three years earlier.
Back then, I caught the bus to go to the railroad station at Biarritz, loaded with luggage for my trip back to Paris. You’re not supposed to talk to the bus-driver, but my cap, embroidered with the word Australia and its flag, caught his eye – so we started talking rugby, as popular in the Basque Country as in my State of Origin, New South Wales. I spent the whole brief journey chatting next to him, and by the time we arrived at the station we had become mates – though we never did discover each other’s name. I got off the bus and dragged my bag to the ticket office. It was there that I realized I had left my shoulder-bag, containing my wallet, money, ID, credit cards, agenda and other stuff, in the bloody bus – right there on the ledge next to the driver’s seat. The implications of the catastrophe struck me immediately. Bewitched, bothered, bewildered and completely buggered : that’s what I was, and ready to ditch my efforts at zen forever ! I was about to ask the lady at the ticket counter to phone the bus company – the first step in what promised clearly to be for me a Way of the Cross. I had no Plan B. I was in deep shit. Which happens.
Suddenly a man I recognized as the bus-driver came rushing into the ticket office, with the shoulder-bag I had just lost in his hands. “You forgot this” was all he had time to say before sprinting to the bus he had driven back to the station just for me ! No time to thank him or to expand on the … shit from which he had saved me.
The next day, after I got home, I purchased a (reasonably priced) watch for him, and put it in my shoulder-bag – with the intention of giving it to him the next time I returned to Biarritz. I phoned the bus company which naturally refused to give me his name or address. I wanted to thank (and surprise) him personally by putting the gift directly into his hands, thereby avoiding any risk of it going astray . . . I told myself that we would certainly run into each other on a bus trip, in the near future; I live in my beach-house for almost half the year, and use the buses’ extensive regional network several times every week. In fact it took three years, but then it happened ! A few days ago, there he was, in the driver’s seat of the bus I had just boarded. He recognized me before I recognized him. He couldn’t believe it when I opened my bag to give him the somewhat crushed wrapped present with the Lipp watch safe inside.
Banal enough, you might think. But what were the odds of it happening ? During those three years I had started to think that he had perhaps retired – or died ! No, he hadn’t ! There he was, with a big smile on his face, now wearing and admiring his windfall watch. A happy ending to a simple good-luck story.
Some people learn to accept misfortune and “carry on”, as stoic Brits are wont to say. Others fall apart (the way I did), and some never get over it. “It’s not the end of the world” (or worse, “You can always have another baby”) is paltry consolation when shit happens. But when good fortune smiles on us, especially when it is the result of the kindness of others, we are not only lucky to have been spared the inconveniences, or the possible disaster, involved; we have been given a reinforcement of our resistance to the slings and arrows of, yes, outrageous fortune, and of our appreciation of the decency of at least some of our fellow pilgrims on planet Earth.
This happened, as I’ve said, a few days ago. The fact that the date was Friday, July 13 (Good Luck Day in France, Bad Luck Day everywhere else) has as much to do with my good fortune as . . . God.