“Feeling lucky, punk?” is what Dirty Harry said to a lowlife when the guy thought he was out of bullets and Harry wasn’t so sure himself. So the guy reaches for his gun and it turns out that wasn’t his lucky day after all. Kapow! Luck is a curious thing. There’s a show on TV called “Lucky To Be Alive.” On that show are all sorts of people who had near-death experiences, everyone from those mauled by bears and sharks to airplane crash survivors. The question here is, how lucky is it to get attacked by a grizzly bear or be in a plane crash? Those things don’t happen to all that many people. Wouldn’t the lucky people be the ones who were standing right next to the guy who was attacked by the bear and didn’t get mauled? Or the guy who missed that airplane flight? Seems like they were the lucky ones, no?
Years ago there was a news report of a circus elephant going ballistic and attacking people in the crowd. Now, an angry elephant is no joke, two tons of mean that can move a lot quicker than you would think and do a hell of a lot of damage swiftly. Anyway, this elephant killed its trainer and started attacking people in the stands. This went on for a while until a swat team could be summoned with a gun powerful enough to stop a rampaging elephant. So, what was the focus of the story? You got it, a “lucky little boy,” some poor kid who was badly injured by the elephant but somehow survived. You have to wonder how lucky Peewee felt when he woke up in a hospital in a body cast with tubes sticking out of him. The kid in the next seat who didn’t get a scratch? Well, there’s no story there, so the boy in the body cast became the “lucky one.” Some luck.
Just recently in Boston a police officer was shot twice in the face with a high-caliber pistol by a bad guy, usually a fatal occurrence. MIraculously the guy survived, and not only that, did so in a pretty short time. He says he too feels “very lucky.” Well, good for him, he’s a brave and dedicated police officer who will soon be returning to his job. Society needs people like him and we owe them a debt of gratitude. But society sure doesn’t have to consider him lucky for being shot in the face with a powerful hand gun. Twice, no less. Not too many of us would be grateful for that opportunity to celebrate ur good fortune. We consider his fellow officers the lucky ones, the ones who were also chasing that bad guy and did not get shot in the face.
So, what is luck? Most of us would agree it is not so lucky to get half-eaten by a wild animal, go down in flames in an aircraft, get trampled by a circus elephant or shot in the face a couple of times. Those are not lucky things to happen, not like finding a four leaf clover or winning the lotto or meeting the love of your life or something. Those are lucky things. Unless maybe bad luck counts. There’s always that to consider, and we all seem to have our share of bad luck. And you can avoid needing luck to get by. For example, you’ll never need to be rescued from the side of a cliff by helicopter all battered and broken if you simply do not go mountain climbing. That’s pretty much a no-brainer. If you don’t want to drown, don’t go swimming.
But we are not like that, us humans. We climb mountains, we go skiing, we swim in shark-infested oceans, go hiking in bear country and patrol dangerous streets in cop cars. We take chances. Hell, just leaving the house to buy some smokes and a newspaper can be a risk. You have no idea how efficiently the driver of that giant dump truck maintains his brakes, yet you cross the street anyway. While you know that a certain amount of people get squashed by dump trucks with weak brakes every year, you trust in fate that today won’t be your day to get mashed. You mingle with other people, share their germs, maybe get sick, maybe not. Maybe you get someone else sick. Anything can happen anytime to anyone. The temptation might just be to lay low at home to avoid calamities.
But there are risks involved in sitting at home too. The gas could leak and blow you up or the roof could collapse on your head while you’re sitting around playing it safe. A tornado could tear up the joint and land you somewhere other than Kansas. You just never know. So we all need a certain measure of luck in this dangerous world. Like the song says, “No one here gets out alive.” The trick is to live as long as you can. Some of us are luckier than others in that regard. Who hasn’t been to the funeral of a person dead before their time for one reason or another? Unless the person was some sort of daredevil or the girlfriend of Phil Spector, it’s always a surprise and beyond explanation. So, do we stop living the life we want to live just to stay alive longer? Just do nothing? That’s no answer since that’s like being dead anyway. No, you just go about your business and hope for the best, trying not to be too reckless or do too many stupid things.
And you just hope your good luck isn’t the kind that gets you on that Lucky To Be Alive show. You want to be the lucky one without the facial reconstructive surgery and all kinds of hardware holding your body together, or the guy being interviewed by some dopey reporter with your jaw wired shut telling his TV audience how very fortunate you are, with you cursing the fact that you’re in traction and unable to bash his fool head in with your bed pan. Towards that end, most of us don’t seek out confrontations with irritable and hungry giant predators, drive our cars 100 miles an hour or tell a biker gang you think they’re a bunch of ugly sissies. Life is dangerous enough just doing regular stuff without asking for more grief. No sense pushing our luck, such as it is.