Shayne on You: Is the Universe out to get me?

This weekís column is more personal than advisory, but thereís nothing else I can focus on at the moment. So Iíll tell you about it. I think last Thursday morning must have begun something like this:

Dear Maggie,

This is the Universe speaking. I really have it in for you at the moment. Iím sick of the pollyanna positive thinking bull youíre always spouting, so Iíve decided to kick your ass. Be ready.


Dear Universe,

Bring it.


Mind you, Iím only aware of this conversation in hindsight. Had it been a conscious one, I would have probably chickened out. However it began, hereís how it unfolded. I went out last Thursday night, and when I came home, there were emergency vehicles lining the road, lights flashing everywhere, firemen smashing out my windows, and thick smoke billowing from every one of them. My house was on fire. At first, I could think of nothing but the dogs, my pals Wrinkles and Sally. Wrinkles is a fourteen year old English bulldog Iíve had since she was six weeks old. Sheís mostly blind now, and her health has been failing more and more. Mostly she just sleeps these days. Sally is an eleven year old great Dane, and while Iíve only had her a bit over a year, sheís always been in the family. My daughter had her for 8 years and we were best pals even then. Before that she was my momís dog. Sallyís health has been going downhill too, though not as severely as Wrinklesí.

At any rate, being who I am, I pulled my car into the only open spot on the roadside, and dove out of it, keys in hand, and ran to the house, yelling about my dogs, and to stop smashing windows, because I had the keys. (Keys have nothing to do with why firemen smash windows, but I was slightly stunned at that point and not thinking real clearly.) I unlocked the door, stepped into the hall, and faced the thickest smoke I had ever seen. A firefighter quickly took me right back out again, then went in himself, mask on his face, as I shouted directions to where my pals would be.

And a few minutes later he brought Wrinkles out, and it was pretty clear as he did that she was gone. Poor old girl. It took longer to retrieve Sallyís body. She was a big dog, we used to call her a small pony. It took several firefighters to carry her out of the mess that used to be my house. The dogs didnít suffer. Wrinkles, we think, never woke from her marathon nap session. Sally had time only to run upstairs, and was gone before she made it to the bedroom where she was heading. So it was fast. Thatís a relief to me.

The house is not a total loss, thanks to the security system that called the fire department long before I could have. Still, if Iíd been home, I donít know if Iíd have made it out. It looks like the fire moved very rapidly.

At first, I was pretty much ready to just admit defeat, crawl into a hole somewhere, and pull the hole in behind me. I was telling the Universe, ďOK, you win. I quit.Ē But then, two days after the fire, as I was driving, an entire herd of deer came charging directly AT my Murano from a field on the side of the road. I saw them coming, muttered a curse word, and tried to dodge, but honestly, it was as if they were bullets fired from a machine gun. I missed them all but one. He bashed his head into the passenger side mirror, tearing it off, then bounded away happily. I got out and looked at my car, then I looked at the sky, then at my car, then at the sky, and then I got mad and swore and yelled a lot. And then I laughed. I laughed until I cried, because really, come on.

I went back to the house that afternoon, with my sideview mirror dangling from wires and deer fur in the door handle. I put batteries in a little portable CD player, and popped in a Beatles CD, which had been in my car, unlike the rest of my CDs, which melted, and began going through stuff and jotting down notes of what used to be there. My insurance guy showed up, and told me I had plenty of coverage, more than I would even need, and that I had bought a replacement value policy, which most people donít. So theyíll pay for everything, even if I buy things that cost more than the original itemsí value. Heís told me this several times already, but this time I think I actually heard him.

I realized that Iím going to be just fine. My house, Serenity (as I named her after I moved in) is going to be better than she was to begin with. All the little changes I wanted to make over the next few years, can now be made all at once. Itís going to be inconvenient for awhile, but in the end, Iíll be better off than I was before. Except of course, for missing my dogs, but that was going to happen in short order anyway, and perhaps in a more drawn out and less quick and painless manner. And besides, I know the dogs are fine. I miss them, but theyíre fine and at peace.

My car is likely to end up with a fresh paint job, since the dangling mirror and deer hooves have scratched up the silver. I never liked the silver. I want burnt orange. I love that car. Her name is Sam, short for Samantha. Sheís a Nissan Murano, safest car in the country according to this weekís crash test ratings.

So I cranked the CD player up a bit, and I started to sing along with the Beatles as the insurance guy drove away. I found my crystal ball, intact but sooty, and I sang a little louder as I looked into my own future.

Iím going to be just fine. Iím going to land utterly on my feet, and end up with a silver lining to boot, because thatís who I am. Miss Pollyanna Postive Attitude. And it works for me.

So there, Universe.


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