Three incidents

THURSDAY, 2 OCTOBER 2003

Three recent incidents in my life have led to some interesting insights.

The first incident took place on a Thursday afternoon. On my way back from town, I bought myself a box of fried rice at one of my favourite eateries. A quarter of an hour later I was sitting in my new living room, watching Very Bad Things – with my mixture of fried rice, vegetables, shrimp and an egg cooked in tea, ready to be devoured. It should be mentioned that this is one of my favourite Taiwanese dishes. Since I was quite hungry from riding around all morning, the first few bites went down extremely well. Chewing with abandonment, I wanted to put the box down on the plastic tray in front of me for just a moment. Because my eyes were focused on Cameron Diaz – and I’m not even a fan! – I failed to notice the precarious position of the tray on the edge of the coffee table.

The next moment it happened. The tray knocked over, and suddenly I was sitting there with hot, freshly fried rice on my flip-flops, between my toes and of course, on the floor. Shocked and instantly despondent my eyelids closed in denial of what had just transpired more than for the usual contemplation.

For a moment, I found myself imagining that it was just a horrible, twisted nightmare; that it didn’t actually happen; that I was going to open my eyes and continue enjoying my rice with vegetables and shrimps like only a hungry man can. But I had to face the harsh reality that my life is not a fictional story. I had to force myself to get up, shake the shrimps off my flip-flops, and continue with my life.

After a few minutes, I had recovered sufficiently from the shock to realize I could compensate myself with a box of Garlic Chicken Gratin and half dozen dumplings from the Seven Eleven. On the way to the store, I tried to piece together the puzzle of erroneous actions that had led to the unfortunate Fried Rice Episode. The coffee table on which the tray rested was overloaded with junk, so there wasn’t enough room for the tray; the table was too far from my seat; I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing; the electric fan was quietly blasting away at everything that could possibly be knocked over.

Twenty minutes later I was back in my living room with two packs of convenience store food (a pitiful substitute for fresh fried rice) and a valuable new insight to make the whole affair less unpleasant. I figured that some factors lead to a situation where things can go wrong in your life (in this case mainly the cluttered coffee table); on the other hand, certain factors lead to a situation where things can go right (a clean coffee table would have been an excellent example).

For the record, I can also say that I was deeply impressed – perhaps for academic reasons – by my sincere horror and disgust at the sight of fried rice on my floor, instead of on the way to my empty stomach.

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Three incidents – Second incident

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