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.
Why did you serve?
Numerous local residents have spent time in service to our country in the military. Some joined out of a duty to our county, others were pressed into service through the draft, still others wanted to take advantage of the G.I. Bill. In honor of their service and Armed Forces Day on Saturday, we asked our readers why they served and what they took away from their service.Continued ...
Fitness key during pregnancy
Women have been having babies since well before time has been recorded by humans.Continued ...
Beyond the stacks: Local libraries offer everything from history to technology
The local libraries within the Four County Library System still make information available to their patrons in the traditional way -- books. They are also storehouses of local history: old photos, newspapers, genealogy records, diaries and letters.Continued ...
Romantic times at Fenimore
When one thinks of the romantic, usually one ponders wistfully the early days of a courtship and marriage.Continued ...
Prom fashions bright, blingy, different
Prom night can be one of the biggest events of a high school student's life. It is the last bash before college for many, and the memories are often recorded. That is why prom fashion is so important to high school seniors.Continued ...
- Why did you serve?
- Around The Arts
Local programs help children's creativity grow
I am not a stage mom. But, the other day I ended up in the middle of a discussion with a stage dad who, for many years, has designated a great deal of his time and resources to support his teenage sonâ€™s performing career. The cry of the stage parent: chauffeuring from one rehearsal to the next, scouting costumes, building sets, selling tickets and program ads, and, of course, sitting in the audience for the entire production run. Then, without a breath, off to the next one!Continued ...
An artist label can be placed on many types of people
"You are such an artist."Continued ...
Dip your toe in the art world through Pinterest
I am a magazine ripper. I always have been. I have shoesboxes and file folders filled with decorating ideas, recipes and other miscellaneous projects. No matter how hard I've tried, I can never seem to organize or tame the scraps of inspiration floating around my house.Continued ...
Arts encompasses so much more than visual, performing, musical things
This column was due when I was in the throes of our season at The Glimmerglass Festival, when all we are thinking about is the arts -- how to make people more aware of the arts, to engage in the arts. And -- what exactly do "the arts" entail?Continued ...
School may be out, but there's lots to do to keep kids busy
By June Dzialo Now that school's out for the summer, my daughter is proclaiming that we are, "the most boring family on Earth."Continued ...
- Local programs help children's creativity grow
- Music Beat
Music Industry Tips About Professional Musicians
Musicians know that every performance they play is an audition for their next engagement.Continued ...
Practice really does make perfect for professionals
Shortly after I was hired at the age of 25 to work in the Music Department at State University College at Oneonta, I played a concert for members of this community. At the end of the concert, a young audience member said to me, â€œHow many years have you been playing the cello and do you still have to practice?â€�Continued ...
Stepping on the flag, and other memories
If we are to be defined all our lives by our high school mascots, then I suppose I am a Viking. But I'm also a Panther, having transferred schools after my freshman year.Continued ...
From SUNY Oneonta to CBS Sports
Some people say the music business is failing, but I don’t agree with that point of view. Neither does Joseph Miller.Continued ...
- 12 Music Industry Tips from Joseph Miller
- Music Industry Tips About Professional Musicians
- Parenting Imperfect
I'm relieved it's not just me
For the last few years, I've been convinced that I'm just harder on things than other people are.Continued ...
A tactical error in the handoff
My kids are lucky enough to have half of their grandparents within a three-hour drive.Continued ...
A potentially quiet afternoon interrupted by a dog and a balloon
The kids spent most of Martin Luther King Jr. Day bickering.Continued ...
The dog is a getting to be an expert at training
This sentence took 20 minutes to type.Continued ...
Bad things can happen when trends are no longer trendy
When I was a kid, it used to drive me bonkers that my mom didn't know anything about the most important things in my world. She had no idea what a friendship pin was or how you'd make one. She couldn't name any good band, i.e., the ones a pre-teen would listen to like Duran Duran or Wham. And she didn't find Robert Downey Jr. nearly as dreamy as I did.Continued ...
- I'm relieved it's not just me
- Senior scene
Looking Back: A sad ending for adorable, sweet Taffy-toes
Another unwanted drop-off? Yes and so I must write this.Continued ...
As Time Goes By: Dealing with side effect of pills can really be a pain
At age 76, I find myself incontinent. Actually the problem started well before that date but now it has gone beyond "a problem," to "holy smoke the dam broke."Continued ...
- From the Office: Try spring cleaning, organizing for stress release
Looking Back: Take your time, think ahead before making decisions
A lifetime may seem forever for some, especially when we were young and couldn't wait to grow up and get to do all things we saw the adults do. Come to think of it, perhaps that wasn't too good.Continued ...
As Time Goes By: Getting sick in the southern sun
I went and did it - I have heard about southern hospitality so much that I thought I would see if it extended to the hospitals as well.Continued ...
- Looking Back: A sad ending for adorable, sweet Taffy-toes
- Tech, GP
Thankful hard-disk shortage is about over, and counting my blessings
Well, I'm almost ready to let out a cheer.Continued ...
Businesses need backups for their computer people, systems
In the interest of full disclosure, I want to let you know that I have taken a new position, professionally. I recently joined Eastman Associates, a local general contractor, to do its IT work, as well as taking care of some other functions of the business.Continued ...
Windows 8 seems to be made for the good of Microsoft, not the user
By Bruce Endries The software company everybody loves to hate, Microsoft, recently released what it calls a "consumer preview" of their next operating system, Windows 8.Continued ...
The Granite State got it right on software purchases
Believe it or not, I have found a bright spot in the political landscape, amid all the vitriolic partisan fighting.Continued ...
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
On the Go: Patriotism doesn't mean keeping status quo
I've been labeled many things, but when anti-American and unpatriotic came into the picture recently I was surprised. I know I have some controversial opinions, but since when does that equate to not loving America? I'm a born and raised American kid, and I love America.Continued ...
Luhrmann brings Gatsby new life
Sure, you would think that being a college student and having finals rapidly approaching would equate to my growing anticipation for the summer and being done with my first year of college.Continued ...
Teenhood Today: Only you can determine your impact
The question I am most often asked is, "What do you want to do with your life?"Continued ...
A Word of Advice: Just do something
If you're not going upward, the only direction you can go is down. To stagnate is to surrender; to do nothing for yourself; to give up on a better day completely. If we sit around feeling good enough in all aspects of life, or just too lazy to fix them, well, as Albert Einstein put it, "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."Continued ...
On the Go: Life is like the Cliff Walk
Over spring break, my family and I spent time in Newport, R.I. While we were there, we walked a path known as the Cliff Walk. This walk is nestled between some Newport mansions and some cliffs overlooking the ocean. While we were walking, my sister and I noticed how this path was a perfect metaphor for life and the journey it is.Continued ...
- On the Go: Patriotism doesn't mean keeping status quo