Murphy’s Law and the Kindness of Mainers


November 15, 2017 by Jean

Murphys Law

The fifth day of the power outage in Maine was a Murphy’s Law kind of day. The power hadn’t been restored the previous evening as promised, and I woke up to see my neighbor turning off her generator and driving away for the day (which meant that I couldn’t go over to her house to fill up water containers or boil water for tea). This was also the day that I followed up on the scrabbling noises I had heard while driving home from singing rehearsal the previous night by emptying out the storage area of my car, which revealed an elaborate nest of shredded tissues down in the wheel well for the spare tire, along with at least two resident mice. And just in case no electricity, no running water, and mice setting up a maternity ward in my car wasn’t enough, as I pulled out my eyeglasses to put them on that morning, one of the ear pieces broke off in my hand. Aaarghh!

I created a somewhat fragile repair to my glasses using scotch tape and decided to finally do something about filling the prescription for new glasses that had been sitting on my desk for several weeks. But Murphy’s Law was not done with me. The largest local optical shop turned out to have only a few eyeglass frames that would fit my small head, and none that I could live with. The following week I made a special trip into Portland (about an hour away) to shop at the big eyeglass chains. One turned out to have a large selection of “youth” frames, and I chose one I was reasonably happy with. This is the kind of shop that makes your glasses up while you wait, but it turned out the wait would be three hours, and I didn’t have that long. I made do with my scotch tape repair for another three days, until Saturday, when I could make the drive back to Portland to pick up my glasses after my morning singing rehearsal.

On Saturday, I set the alarm (something I almost never do) for 6:30 a.m., allowing plenty of time to get showered and dressed, have breakfast, get everything organized for a day out, and get to my rehearsal by its 9:00 a.m. start. But then, as I was about to go out the door, I realized I didn’t have my purse – and I couldn’t find it anywhere. (The purse in question is a small fabric shoulder bag, barely larger than a wallet.) I did a quick search of the house, but no luck. No driver’s license, no credit cards, no cash – and I was going to be late for my rehearsal. I drove very cautiously, not wanting to have to explain my absent license to a police officer, and managed to arrive at the singing rehearsal before the vocal warm-up exercises were finished.

During rehearsal, part of my brain was busy trying to figure out where my purse could be. I began to wonder if I had left it at the Franco Center where we had rehearsed on Thursday evening, and I decided to stop there on the way home to see if I could get in and look for it. I found the building open for a group of dancers rehearsing in the performance space. I slipped in quietly to check the spot where I thought I might have left my purse, briefly explaining my presence to one of the dancers – but I didn’t find the lost purse. Back home, I ransacked my house (which isn’t that large), checking every closet and drawer and even the basement, but without luck. I was running out of possibilities. Could my chimney sweep have somehow scooped it up with his belongings the day before when I was paying him after he cleaned my chimney? If he had, I reasoned, he would have called me as soon as he discovered it. So I ran out to the kitchen to check my answering machine; and found the message light blinking!

The message was not from my chimney guy, but from one of the dancers at the Franco Center. They had found my purse! One of them had then used her smart phone to Google the name and address on my license, found my phone number, and called me. I got in my car and rushed back over there to find the dancers in the parking lot, just getting into their cars to leave. When they saw me, they got out of their cars and explained that they had tucked my purse away in a cupboard for safety. They all waited in the parking lot (they were going out for a meal after their five-hour rehearsal) while one of them accompanied me back inside to show me where my purse was hidden, and I was reunited with my driver’s license, credit cards, health insurance cards, and cash.

I was once again reminded of the kindness of most Mainers. Even when I realized that my purse had probably been missing for more than 24 hours, I never seriously worried that my identity had been stolen or credit cards maxed out or my bank account emptied. But even I was surprised by how much trouble this group of women had gone to to look for my purse when they learned I had lost it, to search for my contact information and call me, to hide my purse away in a safe place until I could retrieve it, and to delay their well-deserved meal while they helped me out. As I told them in the thank-you note I sent the next day, in a time when the news is full of people behaving badly, it was good to be reminded that most people are good. They had restored my faith in humankind.

10 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law and the Kindness of Mainers

  1. JeanR says:

    What a happy ending to a week full of follies and mishaps. I did, however, have to laugh at your problem with the mice maternity ward moving into your car. I can so identify with that. We used to put snowplows in storage during summer and they loved the air filters that best. I’m glad you found your squatters when you did. They can do a lot of damage to the wiring.

    • Jean says:

      Jean, I’m worried that I might still have a mouse living somewhere in the frame at the back of the car. Your story and Brenda’s (below) have decided me that I’m going to take the car into the dealership and see if they can find and evict any mice before they start chewing on wires.

  2. Melanie says:

    You are lucky to live in an area where people are so respectful and helpful. That is not the case everywhere!

    • Jean says:

      Melanie, Retiring to a rural area in a cold climate isn’t an obvious choice. But I consider the lack of amenities in rural living and the winters to be a reasonable trade-off for the benefits of living in a place with a culture of trust and kindness.

  3. Diana Studer says:

    Reassuring to have that kind support to fall back on unexpectedly.

    • Jean says:

      Diana, The culture of helpfulness to strangers is quite strong here, and it is reassuring. When I tried to thank the dancers for all the trouble they were taking, they just said, “Well, you would do the same thing.” I hope that I would.

  4. Brenda says:

    Oh those rodents in the car!!! You are fortunate if they only camped in the wheel well and didn’t destroy any filters or wiring. Our chipmunks were not so considerate.
    I know what you mean about Mainers. George recently left his cell phone in a shopping cart and we didn’t have any doubt that it would be returned–and it was. In other places we have lived, I would have been surprised to ever see it again.

    • Jean says:

      Brenda, George’s cell phone story doesn’t surprise me at all. While there is certainly crime in Maine (in this area, especially some thefts driven by opioid addiction), the general culture is one of honesty, trust, and helpfulness. I think Jeff Foxworthy’s joke that you know you are in New England when the person who offers to help you in Home Depot (or just about any other store) doesn’t actually work there is spot on.

  5. Ellie Leight says:

    Oh dear. This has not been the best of times for you, Missie. It’s nice that you can move on past and write about how it all worked out. I myself have a dilemma similar to your sweet little mouse story. As I write this I have a chipmunk barricaded in my back TV room, and he’s been there for two days! He got in while I was unloading and carrying in groceries from my garage to the house. He somehow rushed in while I had the back door open. I saw him later that evening when I was at the computer and heard the pitter patter of little feet. Eek! I got the broom and managed to chase him into the back room and shut the glass door that divides that room from the rest. I searched everywhere but could not sight him after that. I tried leaving the sliding door to the back deck open several times hoping he would run out, but so far no luck. During the night he jumps on everything knocking stuff over, but during the day not a peep. Meanwhile…???

    • Jean says:

      Ellie, I hope you’ve managed to evict your chipmunk. Eek! is right. I hate those rodent sounds during the night. Recently, I was re-reading May Sarton’s journal, At Seventy, and a recurring theme was the frantic red squirrel that kept popping out of cupboards and closets in her house.
      I think this might be a boom year for rodents here. I’ve already killed more mice in the house this year than I did all of last year, and I now have mouse traps set up in just about every room. I am concerned that there may still be a mouse in the car somewhere, so I’m going to take it into the dealership and have them look for it.

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I am Jean Potuchek, a professional sociologist who has just stepped into the next phase of my life, retirement, after more than thirty years of college teaching. This blog is about my experience of that new phase of life.

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