Fate can really suck sometimes. I’m not talking about big, important fate, like that creepy little kid keeps whining about in TERMINATOR 2. I’m talking about everyday fate, like the fact that it’s my fate to get into some kind of colossal screw-up every time I try to breeze into EZ-Mart for five bucks worth of gas. Or how I’m fated to get into the wrong line at Wal-Mart, not just occasionally, but every freaking time.
I always get into the line where the people in front of me have their credit card declined, and after arguing with the clerk for twenty minutes they finally realize that the clerk doesn’t actually have all that much influence over the executives at Visa, so one of them decides to drive home to Cincinatti or wherever the hell they live to dig up an alternate form of payment while the other one waits there and guards the shopping cart.

Meanwhile the other lines that looked so much worse than this one way back in the Stone Age when I was deciding which line to get in each have a procession of giddy customers blithely sailing through them like shit through a goose.

Thanks to fate, every appliance that I’ve purchased since around 1975 has had something irreparably wrong with it. You know how about one out of every 500 items that come off an assembly line or whatever will have something wrong with it? That’s the one I get every damn time. The stereo I bought fifteen years ago doesn’t play guitar solos–I hear the bass and drums, but the lead guitarist sounds like he’s taking a dump in the building next door. One of my TV speakers is messed up, too, so I can’t make out the dialogue. And if I turn it up loud enough to hear what people are saying, the explosions and stuff blast me through the back wall of the house.

My computer won’t do self-maintenance. It always tells me that it can’t do self-maintenance because there’s some other program running that I need to shut off first, even though there isn’t any other friggin’ program running. The trouble is, you can’t tell your computer there isn’t any other program running. You can’t tell your computer anything. It just tells you things, even when you can see for yourself that they aren’t true, and you can’t argue with it. Sometimes I suspect that my computer thinks it’s funny to tell me lies just to see how I’ll react.

The toaster oven I bought doesn’t brown evenly–my toast is always burnt on one end and underdone on the other end. I just know that across America there are millions of people regularly enjoying perfectly browned toast from their perfect toaster ovens. I wish they’d choke on it. And then I feel guilty for wishing such a horrible thing on innocent people that I don’t even know. And then I imagine them choking on their perfect toast, crawling around like dying bugs on the kitchen floor trying to hand-signal their kids to do the Heimlich maneuver on them or something, and I laugh out loud and then feel guilty again. So the simple act of making an unevenly-toasted cheese sandwich is like stepping onto an emotional rollercoaster.

Traffic lights conspire with fate to make my life a living hell. Most people sail through roughly half of them or more without a second thought. Some people actually get green lights from one end of town to the other sometimes, the bastards. I get red lights every time. They stay green just long enough to torment me as I’m racing toward them, and then inexorably turn red right before I get there so that I have to either slam on the brakes or zoom through them and hope a cop didn’t see me. Then, when I go back in the other direction on my way home, they get me again. I can almost hear them laughing at me–a sick, metallic laugh that sends shivers up my spine. They talk to each other, too, and make fun of me.

I don’t know what I did to make traffic lights hate me so much. I have always been nice to them. It’s gotten to the point where I actually wave and say “thanks” on the rare occasions that a light lets me go through without stopping, so that the light will remember how appreciative I was and not punitively stop me the next time. I’m not making that up. I really do that. I think I’m losing my mind.

I get the emails that say, “Sorry, we screwed up your order, but this only happens, like, once every ten-thousand orders so it’s no big deal, ha ha.” If I order something by regular mail instead of online, my letter is the one that gets sucked into an air vent at the airport and ends up lining a parrot cage in Argentina.

I went to Carlsbad Caverns with my parents when I was in junior high, and we got there at sundown to see the bats fly out, which is supposed to be such a big, awesome deal since there are so many bats that it actually looks like there’s black smoke gushing out of the cave entrance, except that on the particular day that I showed up–as fate would have it–there just happened to be some kind of mysterious bat disease going around that was killing off thousands of bats or at least making them so sick that they had to stay home until they felt better. Millions of people throughout the years have gasped in awe at the wondrous site of the billowing cloud of bats flying out of Carlsbad Caverns, and what happens when I get there? A friggin’ bat disease. Thanks again, fate.

No, on second thought–fate, you suck. It’s your fault that I only got to see a puny couple of dozen crappy little bats fluttering out of that stupid cave, forcing myself to go “ooh, aah” and pretending that it was a big deal. It’s your fault that when I finally got a chance to go to Canada one day and look around for awhile, it was closed.

It’s your fault that I know more than I ever wanted to know about Britney’s twisted childhood because I had to read “Celebrity Asshole” magazine from cover to cover just to keep from going nuts in line at Wal-Mart while some hag was arguing with the clerk about how if she’d just zip the card through for the zillionth time it should work and how it must be Wal-Mart’s friggin’ fault that her worthless piece of crap card was declined in the first place.

It’s your fault that I think traffic lights are sentient beings that hate me and make fun of me. Even the ones I wave at and say “thanks” to. And it’s your fault that I got the computer that thinks it’s funny to screw around with my head and tell me bald-faced lies that I can’t argue with. There aren’t any other programs running, DAMN IT.

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