Thor's Korea Diary
Copping It Sweet*
[*'Copping It Sweet' is Aussie lingo for accepting bad luck gracefully]
@18 January 2005
Two hundred and twenty-six thousand plus people have just had their ultimate moment of bad luck. A tidal wave in the Indian Ocean hit them without warning, drowned them with savage indifference. Millions more had their subsistence incomes and properties destroyed. Ah well, it happens all the time, doesn't it. To other people. What else would the news moguls prey on ?
Then there's your's truly. Still hale at 59, still distance running, still writing, still teaching. Not such a bad life, he tells himself very quietly, lowering expectations once again just in case the gremlins get to hear about any hint of good fortune. But it is never quietly enough. Heaven knows, it's been a roller coaster from the moment he could walk and talk. Talking, huh. Now there's a dangerous habit, a gift to the malevolent. Do you ever have the feeling that there are boundless armies of ill-will blasting at your aura, just out of sight ? Yes, of course you do. That's why there are religions, fortune tellers and rabbit's feet on silver chains. The optimists believe in guardian angels and dismiss misfortune as an oversight in perfection's plan. The unlucky believe in vengeful gods and spiteful spirits. I do my best to believe in an impartial, or rather an indifferent universe, but sometimes it's tough.
The accident was my fault, no question. When you tail-end another car, excuses aren't worth a damn. The highway was busy as I tried to turn left into it. Australians drive on the left. A bunch of cars queued to turn right blocking my view. The guy in front made a dash for it, and I edged forward, craning to see past the other line of cars. Bad moment. Just then the guy in front decided not to make a dash for it after all, hit the anchors, and I rolled into his rear. There wasn't a scratch on my mother's old Corolla, but his baby Suzuki crumpled like foil. Another cop for the insurance company. I spoiled his picnic, but the driver was a nice fellow.
Ah, you've heard this story a hundred times. Amazingly I've avoided it since I began to drive in 1965... So has my mum, and she's 82. Then I got home and hooked out the policy. Yech! Oh, she was sure she must have paid it, she'd paid it for years and years, but the insurance company has a different idea. The old lady moved houses a few months ago, and, well, somehow the renewal wasn't re-posted..... Tsunami. I add GIO Insurance to my list of effigies to burn. A few thousand dollars move out of Thor's meagre pocket. Another strike for the gremlins.
Yeah, the missed flight to Sydney was my fault, no question. Now the flight time itself was pure gremlin stuff. I'd booked a civilized time, Internet style, then gone to hunt for a password to the airline's brain. What a fatal lapse. By the time I got back to the computer, citizen John Doe in Alaska or Angola or the ends of the earth had claimed the precious seat. Well, said the airline's database ogre, you can have this other gig at 1:10am in the morning. Jeez, that's night time isn't it? My soggy brain filed away the curse in a dark corner. Two weeks later on sunny Singapore afternoon the truth hit. Heck, that aeroplane had left THIS morning, sixteen hours ago.
The lady on the phone was sympathetic, but said there would probably be a $150 penalty. The lady at the check-in counter was brisk. Yes, she'd give me a seat on tonight's red-eye flight, but I'd have to pay that $150 in another office before she handed over a boarding pass. The man in the reservations office was very sympathetic."It happens all the time", he chirped breezily. "Let me fix it". In a rush of clattering keys my whole flight plan disappeared into oblivion. "Now we'll do it again and THEY will never know - no penalty ... uh.. sorry, you've lost that return flight back to Seoul. Never mind. I'll put you on standby..". Um, what? Then the cruncher, just as he was handing over my new identity : "... you didn't check in already did you ?" Uh huh. His face fell. "Oh dear, THEY know about you. Now you will have to pay that $150. Sorry." Another strike for the gremlins. They like to drop you on your head from a great height.
We could go on... In this past great year there was the Master's degree that disappeared when the worthy institution which issued it disappeared in a puff of smoke. There was the job that vanished when the principals turned out to be scoundrels.. Commonplace stuff, the lot of it. Happens all the time to other people ....
It is Christmas in Australia, 2004. Paunchy teams of fast-food by-products, the bloated Norms and Traceys, squeeze down the aisles of super-mega-hyper markets, and trundle off to meet the mission statements of their genetically modified employment incubators. The broadcasts and newspapers are awash with self-congratulation. The government was re-elected, the stock market has risen. The fat cats are safe for now. The columnists cross their hearts and spit, warning faintly of distant thunder, but the sub text is that we are doing it better than all those foreigners with smelly armpits.... This is the Lucky Country.
With Australians milling around in their continental theme park being so lucky, the place is far too dangerous for a mere run-of-the-mill, down-at-heel, small-time attractor of stray lightening strikes. Thor is heading back to the politely frozen safety of South Korea, with its 28 nuclear reactors and batteries of North Korean cruise missiles pointing at his head, where you can walk down the street in perfect safety and get away with being an eccentric lunatic on a bicycle.
* Note on personal names: many names in this Diary have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals