I have been known to possess a power called “the curse.” The way it works is this: I will make a borderline stupid observation, and as a result bad things will happen directly related to that observation.
One of the most famous examples of the curse raising its ugly head occurred when I took my three sons — all of us diehard Yankees fans — to a game in the Bronx. The Yankees were behind by a run in the bottom of the ninth inning, with the bases loaded and only one out. The crowd was in a frenzy as Derek Jeter came up to the plate in a prime position to get a single, drive in two runs and give the home team the win.
As fans rose to their feet and started a deafening chant of “JETER! JETER! JETER!” I looked over to my sons and shouted, “You know what would really quiet this crowd down? If Jeter hit into a double play!” As soon as I uttered these words the Yankees captain grounded the ball to the shortstop, who turned a double play and ended the game.
My sons looked at me like I was personally responsible for every disaster since the War Between the States including Lincoln’s assassination, the Great Depression and the designated hitter rule. To this day they are convinced I was the cause of that Yankees loss. Now, whenever there is a situation where anything could possibly go wrong, my offspring instruct me not to say anything for fear that I will paint a worst-case scenario and “the curse” will occur.
The curse happened again last week. A friend and I had decided to take advantage of the late season storm and go for a nighttime snowshoe hike through the woods of Randolph. The area was not familiar to either of us, but I was not concerned.
“A neat thing about snowshoeing is that you really can’t get lost,” I opined as I tightened my bindings and adjusted my poles. Thus the groundwork was laid for the return of the curse.
We put on our headlamps and I started out in the lead. I made a point of acting like I knew exactly where I was going. And to a certain degree I did. I just kept making left turns with the theory that that’s what NASCAR drivers do, and I never heard of one of them getting lost during a race.
In the beginning our tracks were the only tracks in the snow. But then we joined other snowshoe tracks for a while. And then we joined a ski trail. Soon we had no hope of retracing our steps even if we wanted to. I was definitely starting to feel we’d gone astray. On the sly I looked to the sky with the hope of using the stars to orient myself. Unfortunately, due to napping during numerous planetarium shows, all I could make out was Ursa’s belt, or was it Leo’s dog, or maybe Orion’s little dipper...
“Are we lost?” my friend asked.
Lost is a relative term. With the same twisted logic of Steven Wright’s observation that “anywhere is within walking distance if you have the time,” you are really only lost when you admit it to yourself.
“Are we lost?” she asked again.
“We’re not lost until we decide we want to go back to the car and we don’t know how to get there,” I replied with confidence.
“I’m getting cold,” she said. “I want to start back.”
“In that case, we’re lost and we’re going to die,” I stated. I made an attempt to soften the blow of this terrible news.
“The worst thing we can do is panic,” I said in a calm voice. “Forget about the bears, the packs of coyotes, and the demented serial killers who may be lurking in these woods. Let’s just keep moving.”
For the next 45 minutes we hiked up and down hills, around trees and over stumps until I was pretty sure we were going to run into some French-speaking Mounties.
It was cold and we didn’t have food. We would be facing slow deaths of hypothermia and starvation. It could be months before our skeletal remains were ever found. I was hoping some family member would notice I was gone at least a few weeks before the bank called about missed mortgage payments.
“Hey, there’s the car.”
“Up ahead.” Sure enough, we had made it back.
When we finally got in the car we were both relieved and exhausted. “Well,” I said, “look at the bright side: It’s not like we’re going to get a flat tire on the way back to the house or anything.”
I’ll have to write about the eventful ride home another time.
Mark S. Albury lives in Northfield Falls.
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