The Butterfly Effect and the Infinite Monkey Theorem: Part One

For the record, I've got a monkey in the next room sitting in front of a typewriter. Got some 'splainin' to do, I know...

It all started last evening when I ran out of milk. Milk that is necessary for my coffee. Coffee that is crucial if I plan on actually getting up the next morning, leaving the house and functioning properly throughout the day. Yeah, I'm that guy. So I utter a few choice curse words under my breath as I put on my sneakers, grab my keys and jump in the car for the two mile jaunt to the supermarket. Along the way, my feeling of annoyance subsides as I find myself singing along to an old Stones' tune blaring on my sound system. Suddenly, I'm in a great mood. All is right with the world. Until it's not... I stop. I stop because a workman donned in a fluorescent orange vest has a sign up saying "STOP". Turns out a water main has burst. The singing is over. The wait is on. Forty-five minutes later, I'm pulling into the supermarket parking lot, my annoyance level back up threefold.

I enter, loaded for bear, ready for a showdown, vowing that if they somehow don't have milk, there's gonna be a food fight in the produce section, the likes of which will go down in folklore as unprecedented. Talkin' four day clean-up with a five man crew. Good news (for them): the milk is there. Bad news (for me): the three open checkout lines are packed. I take it in, sizing up patrons and groceries, analyzing thoroughly before making my move. A move that quickly seems ingenious as my line is suddenly killing it, proceeding at a blistering pace, the cashier and bagger working perfectly in unison, to the point where the customers in the other lines are marveling at the precision. Until they're not... It stops. It stops because a doddering man with a furrowed brow and a scraggly beard, a couple shoppers in front of me, is rummaging through every shirt and pants pocket on him in relentless pursuit of his checkbook. I glance over at the other two lanes as the patrons quickly filter out through the exit doors and into the parking lot... Really?

I share an eye roll with the woman in front of me, as we espy the older gentleman finally finding success only to discover his pen isn't working. The two of us immediately bond, initiating conversation, while the cashier and bagger rustle about looking for another pen. During our brief chat, the subject turns to the busted water main en route to the store and, finally, there's a silver lining to what has turned into a hellish night: the woman proceeds to tip me off to a sure-fire detour--one I'd never considered in all my years living here--that'll get me home as quickly as my original route. Finally, I make it out of the store and get in the car, realizing it's been a full hour and fifteen minutes since my debacle started. And all because I didn't like my coffee black.

So yeah, that notion had me in reverie as I headed back. These seemingly trivial cascading events--needing milk for my java, a busted water main, an old man and a checkbook leading to a random convo with a woman in line who turns me onto a way home I'd never considered before--felt almost predetermined, as if foredained to guide me from the benign to something more, something of real substance. Kinda like the "butterfly effect", the theory that with all the variables in life, an incident as innocuous as a butterfly fluttering its wings in Brazil could eventually be responsible for a hurricane in Texas.  Except, while running out of milk may be as incidental as a fluttering insect, a new way home was hardly substantial, certainly not on a par with a gale force wind. I quickly dismiss this thought as the ramblings of a supremely agitated man who's somehow had a series of inane incidents gum up the works of his evening. I take a side street, beginning my new route back--the one without a broken water main. I'm making good time until... I stop. I stop because I have two parked police cars flashing blue lights in front of me and a cop with his hand up signaling me to stop... C'mon!

Okay, so here's where it gets weird: The men in blue have a guy in handcuffs outside his vehicle. A guy I realize I know. And just as they're about to put him in the back seat of a black and white, he makes direct eye contact with me... "Jim... Jim, is that you?!" Once again, I utter a few choice curse words under my breath.

Turns out maybe my ramblings were on track after all. The milk run, the busted water main, the doddering check writer and the lady offering a secondary route weren't the end of it. Add in Ken, an old friend and co-worker, getting busted for a DUI, me just happening to arrive Johnny-on-the-spot, a back story of Ken once stepping in to save my job, this indebtedness now being tested in the form of a plea for me to do him a solid in his time of need and we're getting mighty close to a butterfly effect payoff. If only there was one more variable, something rivaling a hurricane in Texas. If only there was... a monkey.

Note: Look for the conclusion, "The Butterfly Effect and the Infinite Monkey Theorem: Part Two" in two weeks (October 20th) right here at Cliche Snark.