String (of Bad Luck) Theory

English: Christmas Lights in Downtown San Anto...

Christmas Lights in Downtown San Antonio (photo credit: Wikipedia).

“Things come in threes,” the old adage goes.

I’ve got a threesome for you.  On Saturday night I took my family to see a Holiday Pops concert in San Antonio.  It was given by the San Antonio Symphony and the San Antonio Mastersingers, a group to which I belonged once upon a time, as a tenor.  They always put on a good show.  So I was fairly excited about this opportunity, my Christmas gift to the family, all seven of us.

The first of this trinity of bad luck happened at dinner.  I’d made a reservation for 6pm at a local favorite restaurant.  I’d made it, in fact, that very morning, at about 10am.  “We’ll have a table for seven ready for you at 6pm,” the guy said on the other end of the phone.  I should have asked him his name.

I’d picked the time of 6pm strategically.  This would afford us some temporal cushions in the slight chance that something were to go wrong–oh, I don’t know, like maybe if there were excessive traffic, if we were to find full parking lots downtown, or even if, say, the restaurant were to lose our reservation.

Which they did!

More on that in a minute.  But at this point I just have to digress a little.  Notice in the final sentence of the above paragraph that I am using the subjunctive mood.  Sadly, this mood doesn’t make it into many English grammar texts anymore.  But it’s a very telling mood–when used correctly and when the author and readers know what to look for.  Hence my digression.  Anyway, all that stuff about “if there were . . .” “if we were . . .” and “if the restaurant were . . .” incorporates this mood, the subjunctive.  What this mood conveys is the hypothetical.  It’s not really supposed to happen.  So, for instance, consider this brief example: If we were to have gone to McDonald’s for dinner, then we all would have thrown up.  The “if we were” part of this sentence tells the hearer that there really is no possibility of it actually happening.  So, really, the sentence should be read like this: If we were to have gone to McDonald’s for dinner (but we never actually would have because we all saw the movie Supersize Me), then we all would have thrown up (but, in reality, since we never would in fact have gone to McDonald’s, throwing up shouldn’t be a worry either).

Got it?

So, this restaurant with which I’d made reservations for 6pm, and which verified that a table for seven would be ready for me at 6pm, well, it defied the subjunctive mood and lost our reservations.  Surely, the guy on the other end of the phone failed English!  Anyway, we had to wait twenty-five minutes to get our “reserved” table.  Then, somewhat regrettably, dinner felt a little rushed.

During dinner my four year-old son didn’t eat a thing.  He’s a little picky by nature, but he should have been feeling peckish.  It was 6:30 after all, and he normally eats closer to 5:30.  And this was Mexican, meaning some of his favorite foods: chips and salsa, tortillas, tacos.  But all through the meal he ate nothing.  He even–and this is highly unusual–lay down.  Yeah!  Right there in the crowded restaurant, sprawled across the booth!  At the time my wife and I agreed that he simply must be tired from the high Christmastime activity levels.  Yeah, we assured ourselves, that’s it.

So much for the first episode of bad luck.

The second was indeed traffic.  Remember that subjunctive mood explanation above?  Again, the world of hypothetical became reality.  We left the restaurant at 7:20 and made it downtown by 7:30.  This really should have given us plenty of time to park, walk to the theater, and find our seats before the 8pm curtain call.

Now I’ve been downtown many times before.  I’m usually quite savvy in the ways of San Antonio.  But, alas, the parking garage I was aiming for was full.  Then, unlikeliness of all unlikelinesses, traffic came to a complete halt.  Yeah!  Dead still in downtown!  Long story short, fifty minutes later we pulled into a parking spot three blocks from the theater–a parking lot I had driven by at 7:25 in fact.

While all this second-of-the-bad-luck threesome was going on, the four year-old boy slept.  Again, this was an unlikely circumstance, for at least two reasons.  One was that downtown was chock-full of Christmas lights, and he absolutely loves Christmas lights.  So that was weird.  But also, his four teenage sisters were singing Christmas carols, gawking, joking, and otherwise trying to console me in my disbelief of the subjunctive defiance I was experiencing, besides my personal abhorrence at being late to anything.  Point is, it was downright noisy in the minivan.  Yet the boy slept on.

Now I should have seen more clearly the third part of our bad-luck sequence approaching.  But I was not altogether in my logical mind, so emotional had I become over said subjunctive defiance.  Yet I did see it coming more clearly than anyone else.  For I was holding the groggy boy in my arms as we traipsed the three blocks to the theater and he burped one of those suggestive burps, you know, when vomit might soon follow.

So, despite the ten bucks we’d just paid for parking, not to mention the small fortune I’d spent on tickets for the concert, I stopped and said, “Maybe we should just forget about the whole thing.  We’re already a half-hour late.  And the boy ain’t feeling so well.”

But no sooner had these words left my mouth than I felt like Bard of Laketown in The Hobbit from all the glaring eyes upon me.  A prophet has no honor in his home town!

So we went to the theater, found our seats at an appropriate time, enjoyed a grand total of one complete piece performed–an awesome arrangement of Carol of the Bells with the largest hand bells I’ll likely ever see–before the boy barfed.  Yep!  All over me (he was on my lap), himself, and–sad to say–a couple people in front of us.

So it was merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!  We high-tailed it out of there and made a bee line for home, where we have been living happily ever after since, without further incident.

Strange how that adage has a ring of truth to it.


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