Friday, August 14, 2009
Did you ever know someone who always seemed to have the worst luck possible?
Joe BTFSPLK is a character that appears in the comic strip "Li'l Abner" by cartoonist Al Capp. Joe is the world's biggest jinx. A black raincloud constantly hovers above him, and, indeed, where ever he goes, bad luck follows.
I am acquainted with a person who is the closest thing to Joe BTFSPLK I've ever encountered. All the time I've known him, I've watched bad luck befall him. It doesn't matter what endeavour he's engaged in, or how simple it is - because it's him, something will go wrong. Sometimes merely annoying, other times disastrous, but inevitable.
And in his case, since he's the manager of a small business, his workers and customers often share in the bad luck.
If there's a planned physical plant improvement, it's sure to get started late, finish late, and during the work, new problems will be discovered. If it involves any kind of sophisticated machinery, it won't function as planned. And it will fail during an important moment.
I watched Joe try to fill a vacant position on his staff once. The first guy he hired turned out to be so weird he fired him. Then, his corporate headquarters' HR department changed the procedures on him, causing a 3 month delay to start the new search. He offered the job to what sounded like a great guy, only he was already committed to a vacation in the South Seas - could he start a month later? Sure, Joe said. The week before he was to start, the guy called to say he had accepted another offer.
I once took a lunch meeting with Joe. There were perhaps eight of us, discussing a joint project together. We ordered lunch delivered. Everyone's sandwich order was correct but Joe's - which didn't arrive.
Joe's the kind of guy whose pen runs dry, whose computer crashes, and whose cell phone battery dies. If it's his turn to be in charge of the shop, there will be a power outage, a plumbing back-up, or a trip-and-fall on the showroom floor.
Joe has bad luck at home, too. For a while, his was one of the few blocks in the city where Verizon was unable to provide DSL internet service until major infrastructure upgrades were completed. Of course, when Joe had to stay home to meet a contractor to discuss tenting his house and spraying for termites, this made telecommuting difficult. And when the contractor was late to arrive, Joe had to cancel an appointment, which impacted other projects down the line.
A typical Monday morning phone call with Joe will go like this:
"Hi, Joe. How was your weekend?"
"Oh, gosh, I came down with a cold Friday night, I've been sick all weekend."
When Joe goes on vacation, where ever he goes, it rains. Or he gets sunstroke. Or food poisoning. His broken ankle, suffered in a freak accident while stepping off a ride at an amusement park, causes him to miss the airport shuttle. His plane always idles on the tarmac; his luggage always gets lost.
Poor Joe. I often wonder if he somehow manages to attract bad luck, or even enable it. For all his bad luck, he remains cheerful, somehow. Perhaps life is safer, more predictable, if things go wrong so frequently and you have to learn to deal with them. Perhaps disappointment's sting is blunted if you have low expectations.
Do you have a Joe BTFSPLK in your life?