Cascading Catastrophes

Coffee Maker

I need coffee in the morning.

Not only do I need it – but the cats need it, my wife needs it and 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.

THE PILE IN THE BASEMENT is where everything goes when we have nowhere else 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 do not just 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.  This is a riff on Murphy’s Law. 

Nature not only sides with the hidden flaw but gleefully uncovers every one of 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 is 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 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 – and besides, the way locals make coffee around here, you have to add water to thicken it up.

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 inside 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.

A little while later, I was driving on a stretch of road that narrows through a bottomless peat bog affectionately known as the Minnesota Mosquito Refuge – when a fawn stepped onto the road, a big green combine backed out of a drive-way and something went THUNK deep in the bowls of my truck’s engine compartment.

Oh….., but that is a story for another day.

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