Cascading Catastrophes

Coffee MakerI need coffee in the morning.

Not only do I need it – but the cats need it, my wife needs it, hapless drivers on the road, all need my coffee.  I am worthless and dangerous without it.

So yesterday, when I removed the coffee maker basket to pour in the grounds, it slipped out of my hand.  No worries, it is made of durable plastic and will probably outlast me.

Maybe because it was so tough, it bounced.  It then hopped across the kitchen tiles and skidded through the basement door, briefly visiting each step on its way down the stairs.  Desperate for coffee, I chased after it.

The last glimpse I caught of the basket was of it making a mad dash for the junk pile.

Let me explain this pile.

When we moved into our new house several months ago, THE PILE IN THE BASEMENT was where everything went when we didn’t know where to put it.  Consequently, THE PILE is where most of our stuff is.  It’s huge, it’s chaotic and it’s where the coffee maker basket chose to hide.

It is always like this.  Things just do not go wrong for me; they go catastrophically wrong.  They also have an uncanny knack for choosing the precise instant when I am the most vulnerable – like in the morning.

System designers know all about this – it is called Cascading Catastrophes.  It’s a riff on Murphy’s Law.  Nature not only sides with the hidden flaw but gleefully uncovers a multitude of flaws hidden by the first.  It is why computers crash, airplanes drop out of the sky and an ex-wrestler named Jesse Ventura was elected governor of Minnesota.

It is something that only a God with a wry sense of humor could create.

When things go wrong, especially for me, like dropping the coffee maker basket, it’s the things that come after that are catastrophic.  Like the skittering across the floor toward a door left open – which leads to a stairway – whose purpose it is to funnel all object ricocheting down it toward the biggest junk pile in the history of basements.

So what to do?

I couldn’t risk the lives of countless pedestrians by driving to the nearest coffee shop. Nor could I ask a neighbor for coffee because in our rural area, the nearest neighbor is too far away to get to without coffee.

I suppose I could have dialed 911 – but lacking coffee, I also lacked the ability to punch three digits into my cell phone.


I methodically moved everything from THE PILE to ANOTHER PILE.  When I was done, I still hadn’t found the coffee maker basket, so I methodically moved everything from THE OTHER PILE back to THE PILE but this time, I made it a point to open every box and thoroughly search the contents, least the coffee maker basket be hiding – and it was.

I found it tucked into a cookie jar, a jar with a lid on it.  How that happened is beyond mortal reasoning.  Suffice it to say though, I found it and was able to brew a pot of coffee.

By the time I arrived at work, I was two hours late for a project meeting. The project manager was not happy.  She demanded an explanation and I gave her one, relating everything that happened.

You would think I could expect sympathy but I didn’t get it.  Instead she pointed an accusatory finger and asked, “Not Again?”

Author: Almost Iowa

30 thoughts on “Cascading Catastrophes”

  1. Would that there were video. The bouncing, the hiding, the at-first-fruitless searching–and all of us pointing and laughing at you, when we all know we have been there.

    Re: The clever hiding strategy:

    After the Northridge quake many years back, a friend and her spouse were puzzled by their empty cupboard which had previously held their everyday dishes. There were not enough broken bits on their kitchen floor, they thought, to explain all of the missing plates, saucers, and cups. Yet no where in the kitchen or in the far-flung reaches of the living room were any missing items from the set to be found.

    Two days later, when they had finally finished sweeping and mopping up the last of the mess in the kitchen (just the kitchen), they went to run the dishwasher for the first time. Inside it they found ALL the missing plateware, which had leaped out of the cupboard, politely reclosed the door behind, jumped across into the dishwasher while the door was flung open by the quake, and then closed THAT door behind, as well Though jumbled, not a plate or cup was broken.

    1. Out, you must know Greg quite well. He actually did toss dishes out the kitchen window, cover them with snow and hightail it out of his place just as the realtor was opening his door to show potential buyers the place. His wife (not me) was apparently not a happy lady.

  2. We have just returned from a camping trip where things went horribly awry with our soon-to-be-replaced coffee maker. I’ll spare you the details as it may be too soon to revive this particular memory. Very funny post and are you planning to tackle the pile any time soon?

  3. Ahh piles. My passion, my hobby, my worst habit, my nemesis, my addiction, my secret stash, my never-ending-source-of-wonder that Hub puts up with me and my piles when he’s the neatest freak I know.

  4. Cascading Catastrophes, huh? See what you have to do is design your life around these Cascading Catastrophes. Then when one happens, you just look at your wife and say, “I knew that was going to happen.” Then you’ll smile. It will put her off her game every time. That is what I do.

          1. You did well by the Bard, Don. I have got to haul out my book of his collected works but I need to be relaxed to read him. Maybe when things calm down.

            Do you find that you write better after reading him?

            1. I do write better. Best advice is to see his plays rather than reading them. But after I’ve finished with “Hamlet” next year, you’ll never go back to reading him the same way.

  5. A couple of things: Very funny, thanks for the giggles. Almost as invigorating as my cup of coffee. Which of course is an imperative.

    But a question, or rather, a concern, regarding the cookie jar. You say it was on THE PILE IN THE BASEMENT. And this PILE IN THE BASEMENT is where things go when you don’t know where to put them.

    Perhaps I can assist? Cookie jars go on the kitchen counter. Front and center. They are for storing COOKIES.

    Hope this helps.
    Sincerely(and laughing all the way)

    1. Perhaps I can assist? Cookie jars go on the kitchen counter. Front and center. They are for storing COOKIES.

      I spotted it first thing when we met on-line. I said to myself, this a reasonable lady and your response today was very much in keeping with your practical nature.

      But we are talking about my house where nothing is practical nor reasonable. We have plates that are not for serving food, silverware that is not to be used when eating. We have chairs that are not for sitting and a muzzle loading pistol that is not for shooting.

      Put simply, the cookie jar is not for cookies. It is for keeping in a box in a pile of boxes that contain things that are for purposes other than the purpose for which they were intended.

      Like I said in the article:

      How that happened is beyond mortal reasoning.

  6. There are not enough H’s and A’s for the laughter I got on this. If I wrote them, I would look like a twelve year old girl. I can so relate…

  7. We once had one of those coffee machines that is a small version of the type you get in cafes – steam powered I guess (I don’t know much about these things). Regardless, the pressure must have got to it as it exploded and a screw on metal top thing it me in the face and dropped me like Tyson – in his early career – would have dropped an opponent. If we had a basement that is where I would have chucked the bastard thing when I regained my senses. Fine post by the way.

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