Wednesday, June 27, 2012


So very much in life depends on timing, and mine has always been impeccably bad. I always seem to be in the right place at the wrong time, or in the wrong place at the right time. There are so many instances of this throughout my life that just trying to pick a few at random is difficult.

One of the earliest examples I can remember was the time in second grade where my school needed a movie projector (remember those?). It was decided that the students would raise money by selling packets of garden seeds door to door. I hated (and still hate) approaching anyone to ask them to buy something. I hate being approached myself, and project my aversion into everyone else. But, escorted by my mother, I dutifully went from door to door selling seeds, feeling excruciatingly uncomfortable every step of the way. Finally, I sold all my seeds (as I recall, my mother bought most of them, though we did not have a garden). And it was announced, amid great jubilation, that we had sold enough seeds to buy a movie projector, which was ordered but would not be delivered before the next school year. Over the summer break, we moved.


I have owed five houses over the course of my lifetime (six, if you count my being charged with the duty of selling my friend Norm's condo after his death). Without a single exception, the moment I listed it for sale, the bottom dropped out of the housing market. It took nearly a year for my last house in Los Angeles to far less than its market value the day before I listed it...and so long to sell my last house in Wisconsin that I gave up on waiting and moved to Chicago without its being sold. It took another four months after I'd moved before it sold...again, for less than it was worth before I listed it.

My record with public transportation is sterling. Europe has a wonderful rail system, and I must admit even I had pretty good time with it until the time came to change trains from Nice, France, to Venice in Ventimiglia, Italy. The train was two hours late in leaving Ventimiglia and superbly timed so that not only did I miss my connecting train in Milan, but missed by ten minutes the last possible train from Milan to Venice. I spent from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m. sitting in the Milan railway station waiting for the next train to Venice.

When I first lived in Chicago and worked in a northwestern suburb, I drove to work each day, which involved crossing a particular set of railroad tracks. Even though I would deliberately alter my time arriving at the crossing to avoid the inevitable train, when I got within 100 feet of it, the gates would come down and I would have to sit there as an endlessly long train passed. I became absolutely convinced that the train would sit somewhere until the engineer, using a pair of binoculars, spotted me approaching, then hit full throttle.

Moving back to Chicago after 40 years and no longer needing to drive to work, I use our el/subway/bus system several times a week, and I can still be guaranteed that, 8 times out of 10, an el train will pull into whatever station I'm using just as I pass through the ground-level turnstile. It will then wait patiently until I am about two steps from the top of the stairway and in full view of it, then with exquisite timing, close the doors and pull away, leaving me standing there.

Chicago also has a convenient on-line bus-tracking system whereby you can log on to learn when any specific bus will reach any specific stop. It works very well, except for me. I inevitably get close enough to the selected stop to watch it pull away, or I will arrive early and have the bus be five to eight minutes late...usually arriving with a second bus directly behind it.
But I'm not complaining. Really. It's just a matter of fact. And I rather hope my bad timing holds true to the extent that I arrive years late for my inevitable appointment with the grim reaper.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (


Kage Alan said...

If you think about it, we were born in the wrong century, too. Authors don't have the kind of respect they used to get. Kinda trumps it all, huh?

Dorien/Roger said...

Interesting point, Kage. But I wonder, have authors as a group EVER gotten the kind of respect they should have?