Have you ever wondered where the phrase "the fickle finger of fate" came from? I don't know either but I do recognize when it happens to me.
When everything is running along smoothly and you are contemplating sitting in your easy chair and kicking off your shoes to enjoy the solitude of uninterrupted dreaming, this is just about the time that fate comes along and you end up with bite-marks on your backside.
I love the story of Pinocchio, especially the theme song, "When You Wish Upon a Star," by Harline and Washington. There is a line that goes, "Like a bolt out of the blue, Fate steps in and sees you through."
I've had a lifetime of "bolts out of the blue," and I know that I was in the presence of fate or angels any number of times.
When I finished graduate school at Cornell, I realized that I really needed to get a job. I started reading the job opportunities posted on the bulletin board and there were two that caught my eye. One was for a food chemist at NOPCO and the other was an assistant professorship position at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown.
I interviewed at NOPCO in Newark, N.J., and was offered a position but stated I wanted to take a look at a college professorship. I rented a car and drove to Doylestown, Pa. It was a beautiful fall day, warmth reflected from every tree and bush with the magnificence of fall colors. As I pulled onto the campus, the football team was in full practice with the punctuation of grunts and the sharp slap of shoulder pads on shoulder pads. I knew as I got out of my rental that this was where I wanted to be.
My interview went extremely well. The pay was going to be a lot less than what I was offered at NOPCO and I had to share office space with Barney, who was the other food chemist but for whatever reason this felt like home.
The only drawback was that, besides Barney, I had to share this basement office with a large rat that inhabited the steam line tunnels between buildings.
This was no ordinary rat. There were times when he looked so big I could throw a saddle on him and ride around the campus. Eventually we became friends and we respected each other's territory. I named him "Willard."
As time went by, I was happy but the meager salary of an assistant professorship and an additional boost in salary for being the freshman basketball coach was not enough to sustain two children and a wife. Fate knocked on my door.
A man I knew from singing in the choir at church told me about an opening for a dairy and food chemist at Pennsalt Chemical Corp. in King-of-Prussia, Pa. The salary was twice as much as what I was making teaching.
I went to speak with the dean of faculty and told him I would not be returning for the next semester. He pleaded with me, offered additional money but could not come close to Pennsalt's offer.
Then he said in a voice filled with shared confidences, "Do you know what a pressure cooker a job like that can be? You'll be traveling all over the country and the usual outcome is alcoholism and divorce." I told him that this would never happen to me _ I had to give it a try. I said goodbye to Willard the rat and wished him and his progeny best wishes.
I loved being a food chemist. I loved solving food processing problems all over the United Stated. My star was ascending.
A couple of years went by and I had become a market manager for automotive chemicals and household lye. I got an invite to the Executive Christmas Party held at the close of work, two days before Christmas.
With this in mind I had been careful to dress conservatively with a Windsor knot in my tie (Pennsalt had deep Quaker roots), took the morning train to my office at 3 Penn Center and made sure to have a couple of rolls at lunch to soak up any libations later that evening.
I went to the party, was properly introduced around corporate row, made my way to the free drinks bar and ordered a Manhattan.
It was very smooth, the company was exciting, and before you could say "bottoms up," I was on my third drink.
About that time I noticed that my lips were turning numb. Just then a friend came up to me and said, "Get out of here before you do something stupid _ they throw these parties to see what you will do." I had already consumed my fourth drink when I started making the rounds saying, "Good evening, I'm sorry I can't stay but I have to take my children to an Indian Guides meeting."
I got to the Reading Railroad Station checked to see when my train was to leave, when Fate stepped in and there standing in front of me was my former dean of faculty.
The Manhattans were pumping into my system and I knew that I had a feeling that my face was lopsided but I no longer cared. I looked at him and blurted the first thing that came to my mind, "I bet you think that I've been shrinking."
He looked at me for a while and then said, "Why, no, Henry, why should I think that?"
I looked at him and then looked at my feet and stated, "You would think that because I'm standing in the middle of the railroad track." (Thank heavens my train wasn't pulling in.)
A few minutes later, his train was announced and he turned to board it. As he turned I said, "Give my best to the faculty."
I wish I could have been a fly on the wall at the next faculty meeting. If Fate could talk it would have said, "Gotcha!"
Henry Geerken is a three-time NYSUT award-winner writing humorous articles addressing retiree and senior citizen concerns. Geerken also writes for Sail-World, World Cruising Newsletter, regarding his many humorous sailing episodes through the years. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. 'Senior Scene' columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/seniorscene.
Have you ever wondered where the phrase "the fickle finger of fate" came from? I don't know either but I do recognize when it happens to me.
Celebrating Passover away from home: Local groups offer students opportunities
"You shall keep this as a rule for you and your children for all time. When you shall enter the land which the LORD will give you as he promised, you shall observe this rite. Then, when your children ask you, 'What is the meaning of this rite?' you shall say, 'It is the LORD's Passover, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.' " --Exodus 12:24-27.Continued ...
The history of Passover
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DIY car care: Mechanic offers tips on vehicle maintenance
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Horses that heal
Along with working, competition and transportation, as well as being coveted companion animals for pleasure riding, horses add the magic of healing to their many talents.Continued ...
We are surrounded by a glut of tempting foods. It can be found in grocery stores, convenience stores, even the local gas station. However, if we are not paying attention, we can plunge into the trap of highly processed food, and health problems.Continued ...
- Celebrating Passover away from home: Local groups offer students opportunities
- Around The Arts
Volunteers are the SWAT of the arts world
When you work at an arts organization, particularly a nonprofit, employees often wear many hats -- accomplishing the duties that appear in the traditional job description, and then some. It happens everywhere. It's a running joke among people who work at nonprofits. There is too much to do, and not enough people to do it. That's when you call in the back up -- SWAT if you will.Continued ...
Let creativity flow with unstructured art projects
As I sit here writing this, the holiday glow is still going strong (my column deadline is two weeks before the publication date), and I've been spending a great deal of time not only with my daughter, but her stuff. We're incredibly lucky to have a loving network of family and friends that spoil her, so I've been merging her new goodies with her old.Continued ...
Opportunities abound for career in the arts
I was recently asked to speak at a local high school about my career path and how I came to work in the arts. It was interesting speaking with these seniors, and discussing their hopes for life after high school.Continued ...
The art of the appraisal explained by one who knows
So often in this column my co-writer, Brittany, and I talk about how art is everywhere and can be appreciated by all. Perhaps because of my passion for everyday art, there is one part of the art world I just cannot grasp -- art appraisal. How can you put a value on something so seemingly subjective? So, I set out to learn more about this industry.Continued ...
Flash mobs more theatrical production than dance
Most people are familiar with the term "flash mob." It's associated with groups of people congregating briefly to the surprise of the surrounding public, and often incorporates a choreographed dance. You've probably been witness to one, or you've probably seen one online, as they are extensively documented -- there are more than 10,000 results on YouTube if you search for flash mobs.Continued ...
- Volunteers are the SWAT of the arts world
- Music Beat
Complete education involves classroom, real-world learning
There is new, long overdue attention being paid in our institutions of higher education to the use of directed practical experience as an essential partner to the classroom lecture.Continued ...
- Music Industry tips
Copyright royalties can make you smile
A few years ago, I wrote an article on the skill and dedication necessary to become a songwriter.Continued ...
- Music Industry Tips
Build a team to build a career
People love music because music is that magical means of communication that never fails. The music industry is going through some rough times, but it is not going to die because music is a basic, central need in everyone's life.Continued ...
- Complete education involves classroom, real-world learning
- Parenting Imperfect
I want to visit the world of 'The Pioneer Woman'
It is a double-edged sword, this whole having kids old enough to leave home alone for short periods of time thing.Continued ...
It is in February when the breaking point is reached
If I could edit the calendar, the two months I'd do away with are August and February.Continued ...
Ibuprofen saved the vacation
Right after New Year's Day, we four hearty souls flew to Orlando to visit my mother, stepfather and aunt.Continued ...
The write stuff is often hard to find in my household
Now that the kids are older and I sleep well most nights, my biggest parenting challenge is boundaries. The challenge is that I feel like I should have them and the small people refuse to acknowledge such a thing could exist.Continued ...
Of kids, phone calls and toilet paper
We have reached that golden age when both kids are responsible enough to be trusted alone for short periods of time.Continued ...
- I want to visit the world of 'The Pioneer Woman'
- Senior scene
Social Security: If you give a man a computer mouse, see what happens
Happy National Poetry Month. Now, if you'll have a look-see, read our poem inspired by Laura Numeroff's "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie":Continued ...
As Time Goes By: There's lint in my belly button, and other observations
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From the Office: Time is now to plan for the aging tsunami
It's coming. Maybe not this year, but starting in 2016, the number of older adults across the our country will begin to grow. At first it will only be a small increase, but as the baby boomers move up in age, the wave of individuals coming into the "senior" age group will become the largest in the census categories.Continued ...
Looking Back: Snowy winter wonderland could be fun or a pain
Snow, snow, go away … come again another day?? Please, perhaps next year? But there is always the positive side to things -- or so it seems.Continued ...
Social Security: 2014 is a year of changes at Social Security Administration
I am excited to share this article, written by a co-worker, about some very important changes happening this year at Social Security. I hope everyone will take a few minutes to read what's in store.Continued ...
- Social Security: If you give a man a computer mouse, see what happens
- Tech, GP
Thankful hard-disk shortage is about over, and counting my blessings
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Businesses need backups for their computer people, systems
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Windows 8 seems to be made for the good of Microsoft, not the user
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The Granite State got it right on software purchases
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Visit a construction site and you'll probably find an iPad
It was just about two years ago now, that the iPad came out, and I wrote a column about it. At that time, I went out on a limb and said that thought it was a product which would fill certain niches very well, but that it wasn't very likely to fill in for what is normally considered a computer.Continued ...
- Thankful hard-disk shortage is about over, and counting my blessings
- Teen Talk
Weekend Reviews: 'The Virgin Suicides' shows angst, longing we all have
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Teenhood Today: Confidence in yourself must come from within
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A Word of Advice: A case for optimism
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On the Go: Science classes weren't wasted
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Weekend Reviews: Folk meets Greek myth flawlessly in 'Hadestown'
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- Weekend Reviews: 'The Virgin Suicides' shows angst, longing we all have