There was a man in the land of RV, whose name was Newbie; and that man was imperfect and uptight, and one that feared Ill Fortune, and eschewed the vain attempt.

Now there was a day when the sons of Ill Fortune came to present themselves before the SOB, and Murphy came also among them.

And the SOB said unto Murphy, Whence comest thou? Then Murphy answered the SOB, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it, and composing my law.

And the SOB said, All laws are mine. What law thinkest thou is thine?

And Murphy did say, I’m having trouble composing it. Maybe you can help. First I tried, “”If there’s more than one possible outcome of a job or task, and one of those outcomes will result in disaster or an undesirable consequence, then somebody will do it that way.” Very exact in conception, but cumbersome in the expression. Then I thought, “If anything can go wrong, it will.” To the point, but it lacks punch. I tried to smooth out the first try with “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way,” but then that sounded long-winded. Now I’m thinking I should go statistical: “Anything that has a probability of happening greater than 0 can and will happen. No exceptions.” Whadda ya think?

And the SOB said, Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

Huh? said Murphy.

You heard me, said the SOB. It’s my law. But I’ll name it after you.

And so Newbie Mr. was doomed. Newbie Ms. too, but she was tending to her business, while Newbie Mr. was tending to the RV, which is clearly not his business.

Before the Deluge
Before the Deluge

And so it came to pass that the RV came with a faulty 12-Volt-switch solenoid. Which meant that for the first three days of inhabiting the motor home, planned in all the glory of fantasy for an RV park on the Pacific Ocean, there was no electricity, and thus no lights, no refrigeration, no hot water heater, no leveling of the coach and no extension of the slide outs. Which left the Mr. and Ms. living in the aisle of a bus, though granted one with a sofa, kitchen, and dining table, and with a bathroom and bed at the back. Also in greater physical intimacy with the pooches Homer and Penelope than, no doubt, some Southern and Mormon state laws permit.

Two visits from the road mechanic dispatched by Newbie’s Good Sam Club membership and several hours of phone consultation with service technicians in three states later, and the problem was diagnosed and the replacement solenoid, shipped over night from Alabama, installed. All to the musical accompaniment of $545. Which will be reimbursed. And Newbie Mr. will utter no further word of actual monetary value. But it doesn’t end there, and this is to establish the idea.

A concurrent spark of genius on the Mr.’s part was to switch his wireless telephone service from Verizon to AT&T, as well as acquire a laptop card from the Bell in order to provide internet service on the road. The Ms. retaining Verizon, the two would find increased coverage and minimize the periods and locations of none. How very practical and prudent. This, then, is the time, gentle and not-so-gentle reader alike, to acknowledge the several among friends and family who have since informed the Newb that upon hearing his plan to switch to AT&T, they almost said something. This would be the time, too, you can understand, to thank them reservedly for ALMOST saying something.

On two separate occasions, nearly hour-long and ultimately fruitless phone calls to the AT&T tech nerve center in a Bangalore basement end with the calls being dropped, the first with Mr. Mukherjee hurriedly noting, “Wait, I think the call is fading; give me your phone – .”

That the connection quality of AT&T wireless is a degree better than the plastic cups with string one hooked up in the tree house back in aught ten is, perhaps, to be accepted as the general static of the universe. But for the two weeks of ocean adjacency Newbie Mr. could not pick up a call without dropping it. And the laptop card – the Bell’s latest, known, one discovers, to be faulty and inoperative with roughly half of Windows Vista computers, but nonetheless marketed to their owners – would not work. During the aforementioned solenoid situation, the Mr. was simultaneously passing through levels of AT&T customer service and technical support like the circles of hell. On two separate occasions, nearly hour-long and ultimately fruitless phone calls to the AT&T tech nerve center in a Bangalore basement end with the calls being dropped, the first with Mr. Mukherjee hurriedly noting, “Wait, I think the call is fading; give me your phone – .”

But what of Direct TV, you ask; surely, with the satellite people, one was like a pious traveler among the congregated faithful. (Yes, Direct TV. What did you think the Newb was going to do for entertainment – fly fish?) Perhaps Newbie Mr. should have known when his order was treated by the highly trained customer assistance, account representative, service fulfillment specialist no differently than were he ordering service for his home, despite how clear he was about the nature of the installation in a motor home. Nonetheless, he confesses to being taken aback when the installation technician headed up the walkway to the house the Mr. and Ms. were at that very moment moving out of rather than into the motor home parked right in front of said house that they were at that very moment moving into. Informed of his misdirection, the technician replied – it is forever burned into Newbie Mr.’s transistor bank – “You can install a satellite receiver in a motor home?”

How shall Newbie Mr. count the levels of his trepidation as his latest affliction went about his own first installation in an RV? How shall Newbie Mr. tell his reader, while retaining any element of surprise, that even after those first days of occupation, when there was no electricity and no internet and little telephone, there was also no TV? It was observed by one very helpful friend, who shall remain nameless as Derc, that during those first days, the Mr. was bouncing from one problem to another without solving any. Alas, t’was true.

Still, through it all, Newbie Mr. bore it all with the patience of – . Well. Even when he called Direct TV and requested that they send someone out to the RV park to review his installation, and he was told that it would be the same technician. Even when he had to state to the fulfillment specialist, with utter and blessed endurance, “I think I’m explaining the matter in a clear and commonsensical way. How could it possibly be acceptable to me for you to send the same technician who mis-installed the receiver in the first place because he had never installed one in a motor home before and didn’t even know it could be done? Are you trying to tell me that in the whole city of Los Angeles, a major corporation such as Direct TV has only one installation technician, and none who has ever done the work in a motor home?” Even when he had to close by saying, “I don’t want to be angry with you anymore” – oh, Newb, the strides one has made – “I repeat, one more time, pass me to your supervisor.”

Desperate phone calls to the Newbie Ms. ensue, generally beginning, “Hello Darling. I’m going to kill someone.”

At the same time, of course, one has THINGS TO DO – bills to pay online, very, very important emails to ignore, the goddamned ship of state to run – and one needs to be online. So in the midst of all, one must be running off to a Starbucks in El Segundo (oh, indignity heaped upon indignity), but not before solving the difficulty that the 17-inch desktop replacement laptop the Newb bought for the road will not fit anywhere on the motor scooter, and he is now without the departed Mini he sold to purchase the two scooters. Desperate phone calls to the Newbie Ms. ensue, generally beginning, “Hello Darling. I’m going to kill someone.”

There is more that could be related – there were the oxen and the asses, the sheep and the servants, the sons and the daughters, all lost because Murphy had the SOB’s ear – but one tires of others’ woes no matter how woefully retailed, and you, dear reader, are no doubt even now considering what was the general insight of Newbie Mr.’s father when in the receipt of such news about the misfortune of others: “Listen, It could have been worse. It could have been me.”

The two weeks on the beach came to a close, and the Newbies, Mr. and Ms., sallied forth to the land of Irvine, at last to have the hydraulic lift installed on the rear of the motor home to carry the motor scooters. Like all else, it took longer than predicted and cost more than double, but perhaps worst of all was to discover the precise GPS coordinates of Purgatory – the La Quinta Inn in Old Town Irvine for three days and three nights without transportation. Of some comfort was the eventuality fulfilled of Barak Obama’s being elected the next President of the United States during this soul-sapping interregnum. One is glad to have made one’s contribution.

Back at the beach for one more night – and to place the treasured scooters on the lift, and lift them – and

They Called It Paradise
They Called It Paradise

then it was  time at last for the Newbies to travel out from the land of woe and into that of America. The RVites bade them adieu, and of the RVites it must be told that they are not all the oldsters that the uninitiated reader presupposes. They are varied in stripe, and of extraordinary friendliness and helpful, good neighborly disposition. They are the Midwest on wheels. So much so that as the Mr. and Ms. putter down the exit road from the RV park, over the speed bumps, and happily chatting about the adventures to come, one gracious soul actually runs Lassie-like behind waving them goodbye through the side view mirror. How charming. Wait. He is not waving goodbye. He is waving stop.


Because one of the scooters, its rear wheel neglectfully left untied-down, has bounced off the lift and is being dragged behind the motor home…

Among the adages bandied from mouth to mouth, carelessly slipped over too pliant lips in the direction of too ready ears, is the one that states that it will all work out in the end. Newbie Ms., a child of the small town Midwest and its long stock of wilderness conquering fortitude, believes this to be so. And if “it” won’t work out in the end, something will. Since Newbie Mr., on the other hand, is a Jew, he believes this to be a lie, and a lie intended only to increase the sting and force of the other shoe when it drops with its crushing blow. Hope cometh before the fall. Still, in search of the endlessly flexible “something,” the Ms. compliments the Mr., sincerely, by pointing out that amid all his trials and provocations, and despite his several threats, Newbie Mr. did not actually take another human life.

Newbie Mr. is even led to consider, after all, the nature of the “something” in contrast to the “it,” in the matter of their working out in the end. Accordingly he has requested his scribe, here scribing, to pass along the following favorite example of the humor of the Jewish Diaspora, with which, if you are unfamiliar, you will now be representatively introduced. Newbie Mr. does not recall where he originally read the story and so begs leave for its uncredited use and any alteration or embellishment.

In a little shtetl somewhere within the Pale of Settlement, late in the nineteenth century, it was the habit of some of the Jews to gather in the local tavern after the day’s work was done and talk of their hopes for the future. On one particular night, a shirtless stranger was observed sitting in the back. He spoke to no one.

Jewish Tavern Scene, in the Pale; Lithograph, ca. 1840.
Jewish Tavern Scene, in the Pale; Lithograph, ca. 1840.

A favorite game ensued. Yonkel, the barrel maker, asked of those assembled, “If you could have one wish fulfilled, what would it be?”

Zalman, the cabinet maker, wished for a new set of tools, to make his work easier. Mendel, the liveryman, wished for a second horse, to pull his cart faster. Rivka, mother of five daughters, wished that her oldest would make a good marriage. From one to the other they went, drawing from each a simple wish to improve a life. At last, all had offered up a wish for the future but the stranger in the back.

It was Rifka who spoke. “Of all the things in the world, this is what you wish for?”

“Stranger,” said Yonkel, “join with us. Tell us what you would ask for if you could be granted one wish.”

Said the stranger, “If I could be granted a wish, I would wish to be king of a great land, a land in which all my subjects prospered and were free, a land in which Jews were treated just like any other and could live their lives unmolested and in peace. And one day, invaders would storm over the borders, sacking the towns and villages as they went, slaughtering the livestock and setting fire to the fields. Nothing would stop them, until at last they advanced on my castle in the middle of the night, and I would be forced to flee from my bed with nothing but the nightshirt on my back. I would wander hungry and cold, penniless, from land to land, for days, for weeks, when in the end, I would come to this tavern, on this night, and sit with you all here, good people, in hopefulness and friendship.”

They all glanced at each other. They looked at the stranger as if he were meshuggah [crazy].

It was Rivka who spoke. “Of all the things in the world, this is what you wish for?”

One must imagine the stranger turning his palms upward and shrugging, the pitch of his voice rising at the end.

“At least I’d have a shirt.”

by AJA

Banning, California; November 2008

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