The stupidest miracle
November 19, 2009 5:39 PM   Subscribe

I just did something banally amazing. Now I'm overcome with a profound sense of dread. Is this legitimate?

We just had some down time at work and we were throwing paper airplanes. Now I should say, that we never have downtime at this job, but this was different because our computers were down. So the fact that people kind of went nuts with the opportunity to play around and were super-into designing awesome paper airplanes.

Anywho, someone was watching us from down the hall and said, "Hey! someone throw it in here!" and placed a tall, thin glass on edge of their desk... this was a good 47 feet away, no lie. My co-worker tried first and it only went about 15 feet. Then I went.

I lined up and said the words "it's in there like swimwear" aloud in a sort of faux-pompous idiocy, then tossed it so nonchalantly, like I did it everyday. It had perfect arc. It swooped down, then back up for second, and went right into the freaking glass. Seriously this glass is a good three to three and half inches wide at best. And again 47 feet away (we retroactively measured it). Needless to say, when it happened people celebrated like we just one the Superbowl. People tried to replicate the event for the next hour and no one even came within 10 feet of the glass. People can't stop talking about it.

So Now Then.

About 3 hours have passed and I have been overcome with this weird sense that I will never, ever, in my entire life be so lucky or do something as great as this... I'm being serious. I know this is nowhere near as important as 99% of the things in my life, but I still feel a genuine sense of dread that what happened was just the coolest, and sadly most interesting thing I will ever do in my entire life. I am rather upset about this.

I realize there is nothing more trivial in the entire world as what I am saying. It was a funny, flukely, silly thing that involved coworkers and bored editors. No one else will care. And yet I am extremely bothered. I have no reason to feel like this. Also, I am not normally like this, as I am generally a worry-free and positive person.

Why would something so utterly trivial and stupid, actually bother me? Is anyone else effected by a whimsical situation that they feel has some sort of grand karmic affectation on their actual life?

I honestly just feel like I just used up my quota of luck.

Is this insane?

The correct answer is yes.

But is it insane to feel that way nonetheless?
posted by Lacking Subtlety to Grab Bag (60 answers total) 140 users marked this as a favorite
Yes. Si. Oui. Uh huh. Yup.
posted by HeyAllie at 5:41 PM on November 19, 2009

It sounds like you're basically coming down off of a high. Not a drug-induced high, but a high nonetheless. It isn't rational so by that sense isn't "sane", but I've had plenty of similar experiences. It'll pass!
posted by larkspur at 5:44 PM on November 19, 2009 [10 favorites]

I honestly just feel like I just used up my quota of luck.

The single sperm cell that became you pimpslapped 100 million of his buddies, and you think you've used up your quota of luck with a paper airplane?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:46 PM on November 19, 2009 [51 favorites]

You were aiming for the glass right? It's not luck then. It's skill. Remind everyone of that in the future, and never throw another paper plane at a glass again. When people goad you, tell them it wouldn't be fair.
posted by sanka at 5:46 PM on November 19, 2009 [28 favorites]

You just had a close encounter with impossibility. You're being presented with something that you can decide to take as an epiphany. What will you do?
posted by krilli at 5:48 PM on November 19, 2009 [5 favorites]

You should feel more worried that now your head's sticking up above the rest of the crowd, 'cause everyone's interested in what you did and/or are doing. Get your head back down, quick!

posted by limeonaire at 5:48 PM on November 19, 2009

Did you ever think that rather than just having good luck, you may have just designed the best paper airplane ever? Give yourself some credit. Also, the shot involved some serious physics. So just let yourself enjoy the moment, and consider making more paper airplanes.
posted by misha at 5:50 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Haha. I am thoroughly enjoying these answers.

I think I should clarify that perhaps part of my worry is that I'm rarely bothered by things, and the fact that I'm bothered over something so OBVIOUSLY stupid, is only further fueling my net bother? If that makes sense.

And as a further question, has anyone else been actually bothered by something similarily trivial before? Even if I'm obviously being dramatic in my word choice (ie "dread").
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 5:51 PM on November 19, 2009

I've had a similar experience in a near car wreck, in which I most certainly would have died, but got out of with not so much as a scratch on my car. It's a high, and your dread will fall away. Unless you watch all those Final Destination movies.
posted by sanka at 5:56 PM on November 19, 2009 [4 favorites]

I have definitely experienced depression after a super mental/emotional "high". I hope its some reassurance to tell you that in my experience, the feeling passes within a couple days, and also, I guarantee you will continue to do awesome things in your future. Also, I recommend extending your current awesomeness by acting as nonchalant as you can about it and letting people whisper your story in the hall for eternity.
posted by serazin at 5:59 PM on November 19, 2009 [5 favorites]

very good point re: the near-car wreck-- enjoy the adrenaline and the imprint of the experience.

I would embrace the dread as well, because it is so unique. later, you can look back on the imprint of that as well.

let them both improve you.
posted by herbplarfegan at 6:05 PM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

When I was 11, my best friend and I were talking outside. It was dark. We were avid D&D players and were having a conversion about spells. In response to something, I lifted my hands to the sky and yelled, "LIGHTNING!". And suddenly, the sky was filled with lightning! We looked at each other with the biggest "HOLY SHIT" looks 11 year olds are so good at giving.

In the last 26 years, I've tried to repeat the results, many, many times, to no avail. When I'm alone, I still try, and I'll probably still try until it happens again or I'm dead. The likelihood of it ever happening again is slim, and it makes me a bit sad at times, but damn it's fun to keep trying!

Stop dreading and keep trying - you may hit the odds again, but you may not. Just have fun, because no matter what, you've got this one awesome "this one time" story.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:07 PM on November 19, 2009 [33 favorites]

The plane landing in the cup was no less likely than any of the other infinite possible outcomes. It would have been equally unlikely for the plane to miss the cup but instead land exactly 4.7321 mm to the right.

Each plane toss of your coworkers that missed or fell short was an equally rare occurrence. You just chose to give meaning to that particular outcome because you were unable to differentiate between the outcomes in which the planes missed.
posted by pravit at 6:07 PM on November 19, 2009 [23 favorites]

And as a further question, has anyone else been actually bothered by something similarily trivial before?

One time I was walking down the street (Dartmouth Street in Boston if it matters) with a buddy of mine and I was leering at women on treadmills in the windows of a second-floor women's gym (Healthworks, if it matters). I was so entranced that I stepped out onto the cross-street (St. James, I think, but it doesn't matter) into the path of five o'clock traffic. My buddy yelled "Bill! Don't!" and yanked me back towards the curb by my shoulder and collar. My left knee and both my hands scraped against the side of a red Honda Civic that went screaming past. I was absolutely fine, but I could feel that car on my fingertips for days.

After I got past the initial shock, I was absolutely convinced that I could never be so lucky again and the next time I made a stupid mistake I would be severely injured or killed. That was probably eight years ago, and I've had a couple of other close calls. I'm still here and intact. But I feel like I'm tempting fate recounting the incident here even though I know logically that it doesn't really matter.

So my anecdotal answer is "it's normal, and while it was a trivial bit of luck you're going to keep going back to it for a long time. Maybe your whole life. Join me in reminding ourselves that it's irrelevant."
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:08 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

You're definitely fueling your net bother! I'm the same way: I hate driving because I'm scared of getting into an accident, but I'm also scared of the implications of my hatred of driving, which adds to my net anxiety level and, you guessed it, makes me hate driving even more.

Anyway. What you did today satisfies two conditions: It was astounding, and it was completely unimportant. You will do plenty of astounding important things in your life, and all of them involve more work than flicking your wrist.

As far as your quota is concerned, remember that luck is subjective. Haven't you ever looked at someone and realized they have no idea how fortunate they are? I'm sure lucky things have happened to you that you're oblivious to. Good things will absolutely still happen to you -- The trick is knowing how to appreciate those things.
posted by lizzicide at 6:14 PM on November 19, 2009

And as a further question, has anyone else been actually bothered by something similarily trivial before?

Boy, have I ever! So much that I can't even think of specific instances.

I also get really serious depression after big events. Holidays, big parties. The build-up is awesome, the event is awesome, and then BAM! I walk around for days afterward thinking, "Nothing will ever be as fun as that was. NOTHING! EVER!"

You're not being stupid, you're being human. You recognize that and you'll snap out of this eventually.
posted by cooker girl at 6:14 PM on November 19, 2009

Is this normal? Yep. Bye-bye adrenaline rush. Your body wants more, and doesn't have more, so you're depressed. Totally normal.

Rationally, though, try thinking of it this way: sometimes awesome and terrific things will be done, by you, with no forethought, training or practice. Things like this will happen to you again, just randomly, because they happen to everyone, and that's terrific. Oh, and hell, what if you actually start trying to make amazing things happen? More adrenaline for you!

So you don't have a problem, not even a little, but might as well leverage it to motivate yourself.
posted by davejay at 6:15 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

I honestly just feel like I just used up my quota of luck.

I have a former co-worker who insisted in this very concept. He called it the good luck pool. He would dread taking from it for something he thought was not worth it in case he needed that luck later.

But, he would not classify this as the type of luck needed to store up or save for the proverbial rainy day. Things like throwing airplanes into a 3.5 inch wide glass 47 feat away is the same as the luck of going to buy a bag of m&m's and getting there to see that you got the last bag. He called this kind of luck, "lucky luck".

He called the other kind of luck, the kind where you crash your car at 100 mph and find out that the roll cage worked perfectly, "life luck". Do not fret. You did not drain your pool of this.

It occurred to me while writing this that I never asked about things like the mega millions and which pool that falls into. It could be a life changing event. So it could fall in either pool. I hope you didn't drain that pool.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:15 PM on November 19, 2009 [6 favorites]

Once, while walking alone at night, all of the streetlamps started going out behind me, one by one, as I passed them.

I have never felt so... evil.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:18 PM on November 19, 2009 [18 favorites]

I think it's a combo of a cheap adrenaline-inducing thrill + small existential crisis. I go through this a lot...tending to overanalyze every experience as this profound metaphor for my life at the moment. Add some energy to that mix and it's like I'VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING (except I don't know what that something is). But what I've found is that I'm ok if I do something else instead. Maybe write a list, answer Q's on AskMeFi, help somebody, run around the block, do something wild and unexpected, sign up for a class, call somebody you haven't talked to in years, write it down, whatever. It sounds like you've got emotional energy + some sort of iconistic thinking (that paper airplane in cup was symbolic to you in some way). Capture it somehow.

Also know that these crazy little miracles happen all the time, to everybody, every day. I can think of 10 times right now where I did something in the last year that made me say out loud, "Holy shit, i almost just killed myself." And I'm talking about the mundane, like tripping in front of a car, or touching a plug as I push it into the socket. But yeah, there's the good things too. You just gotta try to see it all as the comedic tone of your life. That'll make you say to yourself, "Yep, f*cking figures that the plane would land in the cup. I just knew it. Welp, that's my life's work right there. Carry on." and have a little laugh with yourself at the joke that nobody else will get but you.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:18 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

sanka, not to derail, but can you tell us that story?
posted by Dasein at 6:19 PM on November 19, 2009

The sense of dread you're experiencing is normal. You feel out of control. You feel like you are in over you're head.

You are being toyed with by fate. You're the kid in the movie who hits a home run by blind luck on his first at bat, and shits his pants at the thought of ever having to play baseball again.

You're the fifth graders who did worse on tests after being told they were smart.

Get over it. Seize your fate. You have a new identity. You have proved it and never have to prove it again. Be generous. Share the victory of the moment with your coworkers. It it there's as much as yours. Share it and they will love you for it.
posted by alms at 6:25 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

This reminds me of a scene in the movie The Brothers Bloom. Repeatedly in the movie, the one guy will hold a deck of cards, and ask someone else to think of any card in the deck. He then randomly pulls a card out, and says "is this your card?" At one point, someone asks if that ever works. He basically responds, "nope. But if it ever does it'll be the greatest card trick that person's ever seen."

Well, you just performed the greatest paper airplane trick any of you have ever seen. Don't be bothered by it -- be excited!
posted by inigo2 at 6:29 PM on November 19, 2009 [6 favorites]

First off, everyone is being so awesomely helpful. Thank you!

I think I have two addendum to add for consideration:

1) I rarely have post-holiday or excitement letdown. Perhaps it's cause I know they're coming and can usually appropriate for it. When something is a known quantity, I can turn it into something I can control. My mind often works like this. And in personal celebration type things, like when we did good at sports I tried to replicate that. I'd be cool as a cucumber even when I was super-competitive. I'd hit game winning shots and I'd just pump my fist, Ice in my veins type shit. Now this is probably due to the fact that I was completely obsessed with/and was just imitating Larry Bird. Thus so much of it was a kind of put-on demeanor, but I was probably less excited when I was winning in various sports than when I nailed that plane in the glass. Probably because it was totally unexpected?

But 2) something that goes hand in hand with that, was at the same time I'm uncharacteristically superstitious in sports. I can't move from a spot when one of my sports teams is doing well, I wear the same uniforms on win streaks and don't wash them until we lose (in retrospect, totally gross). And keep in mind I'm an athiest. I don't believe in any sort of larger life miracles or order to the universe which would predicate fears and beliefs like this, but I still do these ridiculous things when it comes to sports. I can't help but feel this is TOTALLY related to my feelings on the airplane.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 6:35 PM on November 19, 2009

Once, while walking alone at night, all of the streetlamps started going out behind me, one by one, as I passed them.

I have never felt so... evil.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:18 PM on November 19 [mark as best answer] [+] [!]

Not to ruin it or get too technical, but this has happened to me too several times. Don't street lamps work on a time loop? They shut off every so and so amount of time to keep the bulb from burning too bright and also to conserve energy. And they go on a lamp to lamp delay so it's not like an entire road just goes out at once. Somebody walking down a road at night would actually have a high likelihood of having that happen since all they'd have to do is go under the lamp right as the first one was going out in a sequence.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 6:43 PM on November 19, 2009

Use it as a good memory to remind you that good things can happen at any time, even if they are dumb good things.
posted by The Deej at 6:46 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

This reminds me of the movie "Pool Hall Junkies:"

Pool dude who just got hustled (can't remember the name): "You could never make that shot again in a million years!"

Christopher Walken: "I don't have to make it again in a million years. I just made it now."

And no, I wouldn't get too paranoid about having a luck "quota" or the like. Look at it this way - could be just one cool little part of a general run of good fortune.
posted by lucky25 at 7:04 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

yes, you'll never be that lucky again.

and now on to my similar story. When I was in high school, it was the last day of class before summer vacation, and we were goofing around in english class, and I crumpled up a piece of paper, and we were in the back of the class, a good 50 feet from the dustbin by the (substitute) teachers desk (she stepped out for a moment).

I turned to my friend and said, wanna bet I'll get it in the garbage can from here? And he laughed and said 'go ahead!'.

I didnt have a mantra to say out loud; But I just had this weird, weird feeling that I was going to do it. I had not one iota of doubt. I just knew, before I threw it, exactly where it was going to go. I threw it with complete confidence, complete conviction.

It went straight in, from 50 feet away, didnt even hit the rim. I dont even usually have a good throwing arm. My friend's jaw dropped and he stared at me in awe for a while. I just grinned back. At the time I didnt actually feel like I had done anything special, because even before I threw it, I "knew" it was in, I just knew. Of course I never could repeat that in a million years. My friend tried a few times and didnt even come close. It was only a few days later that I acknowledged to myself that it was, in fact, a freak event, some kind of zen like focus and confidence that I'll likely never experience like that again.
posted by jak68 at 7:11 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

If another 4th and 2 situation comes up, next time you should punt.
posted by citron at 7:13 PM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

One sure thing: you have a story to tell for years to come. Make sure that you imbue it with the needed sense of anticipation and realization.
posted by yclipse at 7:19 PM on November 19, 2009

I had to drop something off at a state fair many years ago, and was on my way back to my car, walking down the Midway, when one of the carnies tossed a ball to me and said, "Hey buddy! C'mon! Give it a shot!" It was the game where there is a bushel basket attached to a tilted platform and the goal is to throw the ball into the basket, but it's really difficult because the angle of the platform ensures that everything but a perfect toss that comes down just inside the front rim of the basket will bounce right out. I caught the ball, and without breaking my stride said, "Aw, this game is too easy!" and nonchalantly tossed it behind my back and over my shoulder... directly into the basket. It was an incredibly awesome shot, and to this day I'm filled with regret when I think about it because I remember that instead of continuing merrily on my way I stopped, gave in to the carnie's offer of the big prize if I could do it again... for a dollar. I gave that bastard my dollar and of course I couldn't make the shot again.

I don't always include that last part when I tell my "this one time" story, but of course I can't forget what happened next, and it never fails to piss me off and make me want to kick my own ass all over again for having been so stupid. So at least be glad that you'll always be able to enjoy your triumph without the extra regret. And I have since had similarly lucky moments like that (but nothing quite that awesome yet) so it's not necessarily a one-time thing.

Great shot. Rock on.
posted by Balonious Assault at 7:30 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

In 1984 I was living in warehouse filled with artist studios. At that time my thing was having photo events. The moon, venus and mars were going to grouped together at a certain time, so I invited a couple friends over for an event on the roof of the warehouse. My seventeen old son had just moved in with me, so he was there too. At about the time of the "conjunction" we went to the roof with a spotlight, I grabbed my camera, took a big puff on some weed and started shooting. Without taking my eye from the camera I backed up for a long shot. My legs hit the knee wall on this three story building and fell off the building backwards. I recall reaching for the edge with one hand and my fingers just touched but offered no grasp. I hit the trunk of a car on my back where the the metal deformation, the shocks and the springs absorbed my fall like a trampoline would. I never let go of the camera and my arm rebounded with the camera where it hit me between the eyebrows. That was my only injury. I fell off at the exact time of the grouping.
Your event made me think of my event. My advice is to not think of it as luck.
posted by JohnR at 7:41 PM on November 19, 2009 [12 favorites]

Two stories:

1. About 9 years ago, I went to lunch at Hooters (not my choice) on the way to go on a sailing trip. The waitress was bantering with the other guys at the table and asked "Ok, so who can guess when I was born?" Friend 1 guessed a year, Friend 2 guessed a year, I guessed a year, a month and a day. The waitress' eyes went very wide. I'd missed it by a day. I can rationalize that I had a 1/365 chance of getting the month and day right and about a 1/6 chance of getting the year right, based on a reasonable estimate of her age, but it was still an extraordinarily odd thing. Later, during the trip, our boat died (the wind and the diesel conked out at the same time) in a very dark, very calm patch of water. We were despondent. But as we sat there, wondering how the hell to get back to Florida from the Bahamas, the Space Shuttle launched and we were in just the right place to see it zip incredibly quickly over our heads. Nobody knew it was launching that day, so, just as the birthday guess was a function of somewhat reasonable odds, I can chalk it up to a failure of information ... or I can recall it as an extraordinarily beautiful coincidence.

2. I was driving down the interstate about 9 years ago behind a large truck going about 65 mpph. The truck hit a bump, and a 4 foot long metal spike bounced off the truck bed, bounced off the road, and headed directly at my face ... and bounced off the windshield with barely a scratch. Without that absurdly thin piece of tough glass in front of me, I'd have suffered a metal spike through the brain.

A couple of points: Amazing things happen to people all the time. Just look at this thread. That's not to discount them: they're still amazing. But the odds of something amazing happening to you are pretty good.

In addition, there's a pretty good chance that amazing things happen to you with some regularity, even in the dullest existence (after all, here we are alive and intelligent on a habitable planet in a profoundly hostile and possibly even incomprehensibly unlikely universe). The problem is that too many of us drown out the extraordinary in the wash of mundane things that rush by us every day. The trick is to find the extraordinary things in your life and keep living them, drawing inspiration and happiness from them, while taking care not to become "that guy who talks about that goddamned paper airplane all the time." :)

Life is full of wonderful coincidences and quirks if you look hard enough. Some of them just come accompanied by a full brass band.
posted by socratic at 8:46 PM on November 19, 2009 [12 favorites]

Perhaps what you really intuited is the incredible arbitrariness of life. Today a number came up, it seemed significant, but of course it wasn't: you have exactly the same odds of drawing a royal flush of hearts as any particular hand of pure garbage. Yet you'll feel differently about drawing the former versus the latter. The structure that makes one special induces a feeling of meaningfulness that in your heart you know is counterfeit. It's not that you believe you exhausted your lifetime luck supply, it's that you know deep down that you have no lifetime luck supply and never did. Stuff just happens, independently of our internal narratives.

The real horror is that this applies to shit that matters too. A little quirk of physics and you're dead, or disabled. You've got a traumatic brain injury and your life will never be the same again. Change the details up a tiny little bit and your wheel falls off in traffic, you roll to a stop at the shoulder and you get honked at by six hundred people, you've go yourself a funny little story to tell.

When you do your arbitrary and ineffectual rituals on behalf of your sports team you are asserting a sense of control over things which you know perfectly well you have no control over and yet which matters to you emotionally. When I get really keyed up about something I play solitaire (it has to be with real cards) until I win, and then I feel better. Magic. It's normal, and no big deal if you keep it in its place, and you'll get over it with time.
posted by nanojath at 8:53 PM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

The single sperm cell that became you pimpslapped 100 million of his buddies, and you think you've used up your quota of luck with a paper airplane?

What this commenter said.

Sometimes I feel jinxed right after something lucky happens to me, too, but usually it wears off or something else mildly fortuitous happens. Luck is luck. It's not preordained.
posted by foulowl at 8:59 PM on November 19, 2009

You only get one or two like that in a lifetime. First, thanks for sharing it here. We all got to enjoy it vicariously. Second, be thankful you had witnesses. Imagine your angst if this had happened while alone.
posted by Muirwylde at 9:17 PM on November 19, 2009 [7 favorites]

"For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting."
- Gen. George C. Patton
posted by chambers at 9:37 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Safe-cracker, bongo-player, Nobel-Prize winner Richard Feynman:
You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight. I was coming here, on the way to the lecture, and I came in through the parking lot. And you won't believe what happened. I saw a car with the license plate ARW 357. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of license plates in the state, what was the chance that I would see that particular one tonight? Amazing!
I disagree with the commenter who says this was skill, not luck, but I don't believe in luck, either. This was random chance. Seriously. This was not any kind of achievement on your part, so you have no reason to believe that it's the "best" thing you will ever do. It just happened.
posted by tzikeh at 10:06 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Aside from my personal story, I also have a suggestion on what to do after the fact to deal with your concern.

A couple years ago I was at the Bristol Renaissance Faire with some friends and my best friend and I always do the archery (you know, the one with the crappy bows?). We were just picking out tiny targets to try to shoot at that were more interesting than the lame ones they had posted to the wooden fence when I spotted a tiny crack (shaped like this: /\ ) in the corner that was no more than the width of the actual arrows.

I shot it once and nailed it right above where the crack started and the arrow stuck there. So, feeling cool, I turned to my friends who were watching and casually said, "hey, watch this." Then, all in one smooth casual motion I turned back to the range, drew an arrow and let it fly (without really aiming) and my arrow went right through the hole. We all just kind of stared....and then I enjoyed my 10 minutes feeling like a badass. Right after that I convinced a guy at the next stall to wander behind the fence and retrieve my arrow (which I still have to this day as a reminder).

So, here's the deal...when something like this happens, enjoy the moment since it will be fleeting. However if there is some sort of trophy you can claim, like my arrow, grab it. In your case it might be a paper airplane. Keep it somewhere out of the way but in a place that you'll notice every now and then and think to yourself "yeah, I'm awesome." Its a nice little pick me up. Life doesn't hand those moments out on a daily basis to you need to capitalize on them when they present themselves.
posted by Elminster24 at 12:46 AM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sometimes it all lines up just right. Yesterday in the office we were having a bit of banter between team-mates and in response to something one guy said, my blurted-out reply was both (a) spot-on to the subject and (b) hilarious. Everyone laughed - really laughed, genuinely and spontaneously. Usually I think of the funny reply way after the conversation's over. But yesterday I felt as if I was standing on the stage at the London Palladium basking in the applause of the audience.
posted by essexjan at 1:05 AM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

You have watched too many movies. There is no great karmic balance of luck that has to be evened out.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:07 AM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

So here's how a musician can feel after a successful concert - you work towards it, you would be seriously disappointed not to succeed in certain moments that are most important for you, but when you do, you think "this was the last time ever, now I'm over my prime". Every time again.
Difference here: making and tossing paper planes was a previously un-exercised activity. Makes me think of actor-network theory and the dictum "things have agency too". Don't you see it? This is a conspiracy of the plane and the glass to make you feel like you do. (actually, you would have to look into zen and the art of archery to find the answer of why it was not coincidental that you hit the mark, why it would nevertheless be your life's achievement to replicate that feat, and why all this is not trivial in the least. Have fun).
posted by Namlit at 1:33 AM on November 20, 2009

During a certain winter of my life, I had the opportunity, thanks to the details of our schedules, to be in place to plug my brother with a snowball as we came home from our different schools. It became my habit to walk home with a readymade snowball in hand. Most days he would be early or late, or he would spot me, or it would be too cold or dry for snowballs, and on those days he was safe. Other days, he would have to run.

One day, everything was perfect. The sun was shining on me and my soft and clumpy snow, and my brother, unaware, was coming up the street.

Just then, someone in a car with an open sunroof drove by and yelled at my ass. I threw the snowball backwards over my shoulder without looking, and saw the whole story in my brother's awe-filled eyes. That day, we both had to run.

I have had luck since then, and I have done other annoying things to my brother, but I am no longer compelled to throw things at him, and he still remembers that day as unarguable proof of my awesomeness.

You are now a legend.
posted by Sallyfur at 1:47 AM on November 20, 2009 [8 favorites]

A couple months ago I saw a water truck pull up to a 2-laned intersection on a curved stretch of country road pavement. The cant of the road and the sudden stop caused many, many gallons of water to exit the top of the truck and enter the leather-lined interior of the nearby convertible BMW, inhabited by a put together woman on this sunny day, who was presumably no longer enjoying the drive. These things happen.

You should watch the movie Magnolia, if you haven't seen it already. You'll feel much better about synchronicity and your place among it all.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:00 AM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I was a college freshman, my roommate threw a hershey kiss at me as I walked into the room, missed, hit the centimeter wide light switch from 15-20 feet away, and turned the lights off. I kept the kiss, have it on my shelf at home, and still remember the moment fondly when I see it. I suggest you do something similar with the airplane.
posted by Kwine at 7:13 AM on November 20, 2009

Once, I was attending a stag night, and we ended up at a casino in the wee hours of the morning. My friend, Matt was steadily feeding dollar coins into a slot machine with no success. I'd started the night off with only thirty bucks (lean college days) and was down to three dollar coins in my pocket.

Observing that Matt was having no luck on the slot machine, I told him that he was doing it wrong. "Here, " I said. "Watch how I do it."

I plopped in a coin, and won ten dollars. "Here," I said, handing him a coin. "Now you try."

He promptly lost it. By this time, the rest of the party had gathered around to watch me scold Matt. "No," I said. "You didn't watch me. Do it just like I do." I put another dollar in and won another ten dollars. Handing him a coin I said, "Now, you try."

Again, he lost. "Dammit, Matt," I said, "I'm going to show you one more time. PAY ATTENTION." I put in a coin. Ten more dollars. Smugly, I pocketed the money and walked off whistling. I love it when the universe has your back.
posted by ColdChef at 8:01 AM on November 20, 2009 [18 favorites]

So this event, like most events, is absolutely totally arbitrary and meaningless. However, humans are machines for generating narrative out of arbitrary meaninglessness. I believe that the narrative arc you should build out of this should resemble the one in Pulp Fiction. Your badass act of paperairplanery is isomorphic to surviving a hail of bullets by pure chance. You should use this encounter with fate or God or whatever as an inspiration to become a better — and actually even more badass — person.

Here are the rules you need to follow:
  • NEVER throw a paper airplane again. You're out of that game. You won. It's over.
  • Okay, maybe like thirty years from now you can throw a paper airplane again. But really, for all practical purposes, you're never throwing a paper airplane again.
  • You need to repay fate or God or whatever by saving, sparing, or mentoring someone, preferably someone seemingly irredeemable or just dumbassy. Or, wait, "repay" isn't even the right word. You need to do this because your encounter with fate or God or whatever has made you a better, deeper person.
  • NEVER let on that you know that this paper airplane thing has made you kinda like Jules from Pulp Fiction. Just, don't.
  • also, NEVER use the phrase "in there like swimwear" ever again. Mainly, because it is lame.
Enjoy your day!
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:02 AM on November 20, 2009 [9 favorites]

iamkimiam reminds me of my unlikely story. On a rare sunny morning here in Pittsburgh, I was in a foul mood, driving around to take care of a dull errand I didn't want to bother with. Ahead of me was a small flatbed utility truck with some kind of cargo stacked on the back. I wasn't paying it too much attention until it took a curve too quickly---suddenly, about thirty silver cylinders spring boisterously from the truck bed, somersaulting end over end, gleaming in the sunlight. When they finally hit the ground, they erupt streaming fountains of spray six, eight feet tall, fogging the air with a shimmering, woozy mist. It was perfect---the lighting, the geometry, the vantage point---just beautiful. There might have been a rainbow.

I feel bad for the beer distributor, but I don't think thirty cans of Natty Light could ever bring me as much happiness as they did that day. (Go ahead and kid---I stand by it!) I needed it too. Some utterly random events are just well-timed.

Can I just say that this AskMe lead-in sounds like it was composed via Mad Libs?
posted by tss at 8:21 AM on November 20, 2009

I think your dread is a failure of capitalism. We're conditioned by our money-based society to believe that we have allotments of everything, that we deplete and refill our coffers. That the vagaries of life work like some kind of cosmic checkbook, or like the energy-meters for each type of weapon in Mega Man.


A more productive way to think about luck is like a plain stretching out from around a tree. You are the tree, and each successful piece of luck is a root that you send out. Sometimes when you send out roots, they spread far, and branch into many parts, penetrating further and further into the distant realms of the luck-plain. Sometimes, they stop because of a rock or something that's in their way. No matter; there's more room in all directions. Keep sending out little roots, and perhaps they'll grow.

You just sent out a MASSIVELY IMPRESSIVE root. Far from depleting anything, you've just paved the way for more roots to potentially branch off of it. Some trees go their whole lives with their roots huddled up in a mass, trapped by rocks, twisted and gnarled, leaving the tree stunted and unhealthy. Why even try to grow, they say; lumberjacks come for us all anyway; perhaps the smaller I am, the less risk there is that anyone will cut me down.

But not you, brother! You are IN! You are IN THE LUCK-PLAIN! Grow! Grow! GROW! Yes, you might get cut down by the lumberjacks as a result, but it's too late to worry about that now, because you are SOMETHING TO BEHOLD, you airplane-master, you! GROW! GROW!
posted by Greg Nog at 8:26 AM on November 20, 2009 [19 favorites]

My story of blind stupid luck:

About 20 years ago I was on some sort of errand for my job and driving back on the interstate when I came up on a complete stoppage of traffic behind a car-carrier. I'm not sure how long I sat there, it couldn't have been more than 10 or 20 seconds before I judged that this traffic wasn't going to start moving any time soon so I started to turn around on the median to go back the other way and take a different route.

When I was waiting for an opening of traffic in the opposite direction, I heard a sudden screeching of tires and looked in the mirror just in time to see a Cadillac Seville plow into the car carrier at almost full highway speed. I was driving a Dodge 600 convertible, with the top down. Had I been a little more patient, five or ten seconds worth, I would have been totally screwed.

I often think about that when I drive by that spot now, because they've erected barriers to keep people from crossing the median to turn around. If the exact same thing happened again in the same spot I'd be totally screwed.

So yeah, those kinds of lucky chance moments can stay with you for a long time.

Oh yeah, and never throw a paper airplane again. Retire as the reigning undefeated champion of precision paper airplane aviation.
posted by lordrunningclam at 10:32 AM on November 20, 2009

You have not used up your luck quotient. I don't believe there is such a thing. I have witnessed my best buddy do something similar to your feat on two occasions, 15 years apart.

Event #1: Frisbee golf at Kalamazoo College. 75 yard hole. The pin was a lamp post no more than 4 inches in diameter. He threw a golf-disc that weaved through 6 small trees and rang the sh*t out of that lamppost. I have never seen so many stoners get so excited in my life.

Event #2: Walking in Central Park. Garbage Can at least fifty feet away. He took a half drank Gatorade bottle and threw the bottle in an arc whose maximum height must have been 25 feet, and drained the sh*t out of the garbage can. Strangers in the park celebrated his shot.

He is not what you would call an athlete, but I don't doubt for a second that sometime in the future, he will perform some other ridiculous feat. And I also don't doubt that you will do something like this again as well.

But You Can't Tip a Buick is correct. You can put your #23 jersey up into the rafters of the paper airplane hall of fame. You're days are over. Don't not return wearing #45.
posted by jasondigitized at 11:45 AM on November 20, 2009

I went out cross-country skiing with a friend who had not done much of that since she was a kid. We stopped to snack and I saw these Gray Jays hanging out in a tree. Seeing them I said, those birds are such bastards. After a long pause, she said, "um? why are they bastards?" I said, wanna see them do some tricks? I rustled my bag of goodies and put a nut in my hand and held it out. A bird sails from the tree, perches on my fingertips and takes the nut while giving me a quizzical little look. I turned around and the look on her face, mouth open, eyes wide was just so awesome. And I thought to myself, never again will I get someone out in the woods who doesn't know this awesome trick!! Dammit!!!

It's so my nature to explain things so just doing it without explaining it made it even more awesome. It's important to just remember, luck happens. It can happen to you. Embrace it when it does.
posted by amanda at 2:38 PM on November 20, 2009

I was at an outdoor beer festival a few years ago and people were throwing around these foam baseballs. Everyone was getting hit in the face left and right. It was about 4 hours into drinking and everyone was pretty sloshed and all of a sudden I hear "HEADS!". Without so much as a split second I do a full 180 while simultaneously bringing my arm up from my side and catch the foam bastard about an inch from my face. It literally took about a second from the screaming of "HEADS" to the ball being in my hand. It was so crowded that probably 40 people saw this, I got TONS of high-fives and people even bought me a few beers. One guy about an hour afterward came up to me and said that was the coolest thing he's ever seen in his life (drunk guys tend to exaggerate). So, that was my stupid miracle, and I just acted like it was the most natural thing I've ever done.
posted by pwally at 6:33 PM on November 20, 2009

I was at a party and people had rigged up this game where a ring hung from a long string and the idea was to drop the ring in an arc across the room and catch it on this hook on the other side. I watched people trying to do this all night to no avail and finally I gave it a try. Hooked it perfectly the first time. Other partiers were most impressed. Made up for a lot of the other clumsy shit I've done.
posted by telstar at 11:02 PM on November 20, 2009

Can I make a suggestion that might leverge this incident into lasting good feelings? Write it up as a short story. I read your question and thought, immediately, "that's a perfect short story, right there". Turn the event, and how it changed you, into art.

If you don't, I will. It's too good to waste.
posted by WPW at 6:19 AM on November 21, 2009

Once when I was about 14 I was cutting lumber for my grandma's porch with a large circular saw. My (older) brother showed me how I could hold back the blade guard with one finger and use the front edge of the spinning blade to take out a half-dozen 2x4s real quick, zip zip zip and bob's your uncle. I was rapidly making my way through the fourth board when my grandma's neighbor, Lou, thoughtfully (or so he thought) lifted the end of the board I was cutting. Sure enough, the blade locked in the wood, wrenched my wrist around and the whole saw snapped up out of the lumber. My finger slipped off the blade guard about a tenth of a second before it smacked into the exact center of my forehead, knocking me ass over teakettle. If my finger hadn't slipped off the blade guard I would have had an angry circular saw spinning latitudinally through my brainpan. I remember my exact 14-year-old-self reaction. I laughed for a half second and then started crying like an idiot. Took the rest of the afternoon off.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:23 AM on November 21, 2009

You have it exactly backwards. The more good luck you have, the more good luck you will have. Buy a lottery ticket. Ask that girl/guy out. Buy a raffle ticket to win account 1000000. Believing you're lucky feels great and is as likely to be true as believing you're unlucky. It's all confirmation bias. So believe that things are more likely to go well, and it will infect your attitude, in a good way.
posted by theora55 at 5:03 PM on November 21, 2009 [4 favorites]

Well, here's my story.
We were in Niagara Falls, about 6 hours away from home, on vacation. We were at some outdoor mall, and while my wife and daughter shopped in one of the stores, my son (who was 13 at the time) and I went to a coffee shop to sit and wait. He was going to start Grade 8 in the Fall, and we were chatting about how this is the time that he will notice his friends start to really show their identities, and that he might notice some change in them.
He tells me that a friend of his, "Kaylee S." (a girl that I also knew), had changed alot since her parents divorced. He told me that she was wearing alot of Hello Kitty stuff, and carrying around a plastic old style lunchbox, and so forth. So we finish up at the coffee shop, and begin to walk around the mall to find the wife and daughter.
Not 1 minute later, a young girl passes by us, wearing a Hello Kitty knapsack; and I hear my son say "Hi Kaylee S." And, yes, it was THEE Kaylee S. from back home. We chatted a little, then I went and sat down and freaked out a bit.
(And no, my son had not seen her earlier, and did not know she would be in Niagara Falls).
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 9:57 AM on November 23, 2009

This past weekend I was out in an unfamiliar city with a friend, and her roommate, and her roommate's friend. The roommate's friend happened to ask my age, and it turned out we were birthday twins - same day, month and year. It wasn't luck, really, but weird enough to give the evening a bit of a special glow, for no good reason.

My inner killjoy says I've met a lot of people with whom I have compared birthdays and found no similarities. And I've met people born on the same day, but not the same year. So statistically, this is likely not so impressive when compared with all the non-birthday-twins I've met through friends of friends over the years.

But like your amazing airplane throw, it was still pretty awesome. Kind of a same-birthday pinacle, which I believe will only be beaten if I find out the specific time of my birth (was not aware in time for the weekend encounter, alas) and then met an even more specific birthday twin later. Or a twin born on the same day, hour, and year, in the same city! Or the same hospital, even! And if I happened to meet that so-specific-twin in an entirely different city....but I digress.

So enjoy it. Retire paper airplanes if you like, but if you don't, remember that there is the slim but possible chance of achieving an even more awesome throw at some unknown point in the future, with potentially more unusually coincidental factors involved.
posted by nicoleincanada at 4:29 AM on December 2, 2009

don't worry: it wont be the last time you experience something like this
but you never know if and when they will come
once many years ago in the ocean 200 hundred yards off the beach in Thailand i was describing to some close friends a natural phenomena that occurs from time to time where some efflorescent algae form balls and go off like flash a mock demonstration of this I put my wrist underwater with my Timex glow watch and lit it up three times to illustrate the effect.
suddenly in front of us, balls of green light flashed in the water in a pattern identical to our own group.
needless to say we were all bewildered, shocked even. To this day my friends don't want to talk about that happening.
we all have some experiences like this i think, though they come in all shapes an sizes. indeed i suspect they are happening around us all the time but we fail to notice them for the wonder they are. clearly some can be more shocking and i suppose some people really never do recover, always looking for a peak experience like THE ONE. One friend of mine had ball lightening come into his parents living room as a 10 year old...he used to say: "My whole life feels like a footnote to that experience"
sad that...
posted by dougiedd at 4:14 PM on December 19, 2009

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