Murphy's Law.

Friday, April 26, 1996

If It Can Go Wrong, It Will.

I used to have a really cool poster, called "Murphy's Laws", which listed hundreds of things that could go wrong at any one time. ("If anything can possibly go wrong, it will go wrong.") I kept it on a wall in my garage, where I'd work on my exotic and rare sports cars; it was appropriate for that place, since there were more than several "Laws" that applied to automotive situations. Like an exhaust manifold bolt stripping its threads, or a tiny screw dropped into the engine bay compartment bouncing around off of metal and settling who knows where? Or setting a wrench down without looking where, only to find it was across the battery terminals, causing a major fireworks display and damage to the battery's internal cells. Not to mention that when I got up from the floor, I was covered in oil from falling onto an oil drain pan. Little things like that. I wish I still had that poster.
I kept my own list of "Laws" through the years, mostly in my head where they could ferment and grow to encompass other areas of life. Little did I know they would want to come out of there someday and make their presence known on The Web. Strange little thoughts.
On a trip to the Left Coast years ago, I drove the interstate highways from New Jersey to San Francisco, and a totally new Law occured to me on the way through Iowa. After going to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa for four years, I know that the biggest, fattest, juiciest bugs live in Iowa; must be the corn or something. Because I found every one of them. This one immutable automotive-related "Law" for me became:

The biggest, juiciest bug will strike my driver's side windshield exactly at eye level, and my hand will accidentally trip the windshield wipers, causing the squashed bug to smear thoroughly across my entire plane of vision, at the precise moment I need the clearest-possible view.

Murphy Is At Home.

I have a cat named Murphy. Most probably a direct descendant from the Murphy's Laws; he's just two now and still into everything. And I mean everything. Nothing is safe from his explorations: cupboards, closets, washer and dryer if left open, bathtub, sinks, boxes, wastecans. He refuses to drink from a dish; he wants running water from a faucet. So when I shave in the morning, he's right there at the bathroom sink wanting his morning water. And when I get home, he's at the kitchen sink with one paw on the cold water tap. He's an extremely affectionate kitten, but a real devil sometimes.
He figured out how to get into the cupboards and pull out all the dishes and glasses, crashing them to the counter and floor. Everything was broken. So I used paper plates and dixie cups for a while until I began taping the doors shut with duct tape. Brilliant idea? It was all I could find at the moment to keep the doors shut. Dumb idea, a real hassle to open and close. Plus it leaves sticky tape marks. Very unsightly. Getting rid of him would be the smart move, but I can't, I'm too attached. You know how that goes.

Murphy Is In My Office.

Running a large Garden Center & Nursery operation where between 100-200 calls come in per day is tiring; trying to dispose of each call on the first try is what counts. Avoiding call backs and follow-ups is important for both the caller and me; handling each query once is key. Having call waiting on the phone line is both a blessing and a curse; I used to lose about half the waiting parties, but they'd always call back. I'm getting a lot better now. Sorry about that. Blame GTE, not me.
This morning I was on a call, working in MS Excel on a landscape estimate, answering a pile of email, and pulled out my desk's drawer to find the ink bottle for my fountain pen. Bang! The drawer's guiderails let go and it crashed on the floor. (It's a cool desk: a 3' x 6' butcherblock top spanning two cabinets and a center drawer mounted underneath the butcherblock.) I dropped the phone onto my keyboard and deleted the speadsheet. Just then a customer poked her head into the office asking about me loading 5 tons of topsoil, Pickles The Cat jumped onto my lap and let me know he needed to be fed, three customers were waiting at the checkout counter, and the front counter computer crashed. Excedrin headache numbers 6002-6007.
Yesterday, the software we use as POS (Point-Of-Sale) at the front counter swallowed itself again and deleted a key look-up file. (It's called RealWorld and it's junk! I call it UN-RealWorld. I've had it for 6 years and it's the worst piece of shit ever made. If I could find something to replace it, I would. I've been looking for 6 years now. It automatically corrupts itself daily and weekly and loses data in large clumps. The morons who built this garbage software put in errors on purpose to keep their tech people employed.) The loss of the look-up function meant we that couldn't type in the first 4 letters of a plant or product and it would automatically find the item. Now the software's useless without that file. The retail people came to me for help. I called UN-RealWorld and they gave me a 900 number at $5.00+ per minute to call. Of course, you get put on hold for the first 25 minutes. Screw them! I hung up and tried to restore the file from a tape back-up we'd done during the one or two minutes a month it actually works right. And wouldn't you know it, it kept deleting the file from it's own directories! What a piece of shit UN-RealWorld is. Send the shitpy software back. I spent almost half a day messing with UN-RealWorld; then I called Pete Barry, my friend from Manchester Industries, Inc., York, PA. (717-764-6793) to see if he could help. Pete has all the patience in the world; I don't. At a certain point, I know enough to say 'that's it, get my .357!' He'll be coming by to look at this shit software problem and offer a temporary fix. The permanent fix is to burn this shit software and mail the ashes back to UN-RealWorld!

Murphy Is Everywhere.

After getting back to work on estimates, I started to make some new Web Pages for Water Gardens. Over the radio it came: severe storm warning until 9pm! Then it hit: 50-60mph winds, lightning, hail, driving rains just as I was getting ready for two landscape evaluation meetings at 6pm and 7pm; they called to reschedule because of the storm and, just then, all the phones went dead. I lost the Internet connection. Pickles came running in to hide under my desk from the booming thunder, two customers on their way out turned around and came running back seeking shelter from the hail, and then the power went out.
My friend, Janice, who has her own company, JANCO Publishing (717) 227-9720, and will have a company page soon on The Web, got her InterNet disk kit last week from Cyberia Communications, Inc. and Murphy came with it. She installed it and lost most of the Netscape icons; it was unstable and shaky operating for a while, but she muddled through. The she reloaded it and presto! It's working fine and dandy now, thank you. Murphy left with the re-installation proceedure.

I Like Murphy.

When Murphy wants to, Murphy can cause some real havoc. I often like to stir things up too just to see what will happen; probably a character flaw or something. It's like throwing so much wood on an already burning campfire, that everyone has to move back because it's so hot. No one knows how far Murphy will go when s/he visits; each time it's an adventure in chaos. Like right now; I'm typing this HTML stuff and Murphy is moving my fingers for me. I have absolutely no control anymore. I should get up and go for a walk, but instead I'm continually deleting and backspacing errors. Amd i wundr wy it hapens tu mea... Yuk.

Other Murphy Stuff.

Here's a sign that belongs next to every copy machine in your office:


This Machine Is Subject To Breakdown During Periods Of Critical Need.

A special circuit in this machine called a "critical use detector" will read your emotional state in terms of how desperate you are to use this copy machine. The "critical use detector" will then create a malfunction directly proportional to your desperation to use this copier. Threatening the copier with violence only aggravates the situation. Likewise, attempts to use another machine may cause it to also malfunction. They belong to the same union. Keep cool and say nice things to the copier. Nothing else seems to work. Never let anything mechanical know you're in any kind of a hurry.

Likewise, this kind of sign could be placed next to any machine or electrical appliance with a couple of simple copy changes. Have some fun; copy it and put one up next to every machine in your office or home. Just make changes to the word 'copier'; substitute coffee maker, toaster, refrigerator, computer, clock, TV, stereo etc. You get the idea.

Murphy's Landscaping Service.

There are more calls coming in than yesterday; 300+ now and growing. There's a call-counter on the three incoming lines now; found one at an electronics store in York. I need help. Tomorrow a new secretary comes in for two days each week to help sort things out and keep me focused. She'll handle the phones, appointments, filing, mail; basically run interference for me while I try to get things done. I hate staying until midnight and later to get business stuff done when it could and should be done during the day. Murphy takes great delight in the many constant interruptions and diversions of my time.
For instance, I was working on a cover memo to a customer's invoice and left the computer for a minute to help a walk-in customer in the showroom. When I got back to the office, there was a young child sitting in my chair at the computer punching the keys and banging the mouse around. (Fortunately, I had saved my work.) Yikes! I gently lifted the child out of the chair and into his mothers arms, who was looking for the kid anyway. He had wandered away and began following Pickles, who was on his way into the office to where his food dishes are. The kid pulled Pickle's tail and was promptly swatted by the cat; Pickles does that first, next time he'll bite or scratch for real. Usually, the kid's parents have headed things off at the pass prior to the bloodbath, and the incident passes. Or I intervene quickly if I'm nearby. But I still got a dirty look from Pickles as if to say, "I like nice kids, but keep the damned brats away from me; that was our deal, John!"

What's Next?

I'm almost afraid to ask. It's only Thursday and I'm not looking forward to the weekend, it gets so busy here. I've got ads running for sales help but no responses except from really nice, but totally-unqualified individuals. As much as I'd like to spend the time training them, it would be a waste of time; they leave after the season is over and don't come back. The training's wasted; they go to another garden center or nursery for a few more beans and sell on my training expertise. Bummer.
Teaching a person about the horticultural business can be either be a labor of love or a nightmare. If there's genuine interest on their part, it can go quickly; if it's just for sales and money alone, it'll be drudgery and a difficult struggle. I wind up doing the design and sales work and giving the sale commissions to the sales person, even though they do nothing. Well, they have to make something to live on. And until they can stand on their own two feet, it's my responsibility to help out somewhat. There's a learning curve and for some people it's easy; for others it's a long process.
I remember one sales guy I had here three years ago; he'd get frustrated with all the people standing in front of the plant material, which was clearly marked with very nice signs explaining cultural information and price, asking "what is this, how do I grow it and what's the price?" His answer was, "Lady if you can bend your big fat ass over and read the sign, then the price is exactly as marked; if I have to tell you what you can clearly see and read, then add $2 to the price of each!" I had to let him go, even though I'd been thinking that same line for the previous 4 years. Too bad.

An Interesting Week.

My new secretary was here this morning; what a difference! For phase one, she organized the office within an inch of its life: found and re-filed the active jobs where I can now find them, went through mail that I had setting here for two weeks, found some important documents, straightened up filing cabinets, cleaned-off my drafting table and lots more. She'll work two days each week whipping the place back into shape after I've trashed it for the first five days. I'm impressed.
Pete Barry from Manchester Industries came by this evening and found the problem with the front counter computer's software- actually he fixed the problem with a workaround - with UN-RealWorld POS software. No one knows what the real problem is except the cretins who built the junk. I'd spent half of Tuesday trying to repair the damaged files and import new ones in, and then UN-RealWorld wouldn't accept the repair files and... Enough of that shitpy software, makes my blood pressure really climb.
Anyway, I'm glad it's over. How was your week? Email me and let me know if Murphy visited you and if anything funny or weird happened. If there's a good story there, I'll put it up on the next Journal entry on Friday, May 3rd.

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