Cumberland Times-News

July 14, 2012

Life can be unfair, maybe even tragic

Maude McDaniel, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— The world is not fair; that’s all there is to it. Life is full of tragedy for all of us. And that’s, as they say, so too bad. Still, some tragedies are more interesting than others, and many of them you can just chalk up to the fact that people are — so often — dumb. And many of these dumb people are — well, criminals.

Did you read last year about the bank thief who called the bank ahead of time and told them to have $10,000 or so of dollars ready for him so he could leave right away, after he got there. They did, but he didn’t.

Then there was another would-be bank thief, who got into the locked bank by posing as a flower delivery man. Only trouble was, he stole the idea from someone who had been in the papers for trying it the week before, and the banks were on to it. They nabbed him right away, and he never even got back the price of his bouquet. I guess he could have chalked it up to overhead. These business expenses will kill you.

Maybe this one is more dumb than tragic — a couple years ago, a Utah man with a considerable criminal history held a woman hostage in a motel for a “tense, 16-hour standoff’ with SWAT teams, Meanwhile he kept the world updated on the situation in Facebook. All in all he made six entries and added at least a dozen new friends.

But you don’t have to be a lawbreaker, or even dumb, to find out that life is unfair. I know of a church organist (not a criminal) whose legs were too short to reach the pedals She had this occupational hazard of falling off the bench during the livelier hymns. Not a moment too soon, she became a voice teacher. Rather a good one, actually.

Then there’s this one I picked up the other day. Some sixty years ago (the date, August 17, 1957 according to the newspaper story I hold here), the Philadelphia Phillies were playing the New York Giants. Baseball, you know. Richie Ashburn, Phillies center fielder and a future Hall of Famer, was in the batter’s box. Phillies fan Alice Roth was in the crowd. He hit a line drive right into her nose, breaking it. Play was halted while the medics did their thing, and started carrying her out of the stands on a stretcher. At that point, play resumed, and Ashburn fouled off the next pitch — and hit poor Alice again, as she lay on the stretcher. My newspaper clipping doesn’t tell much more about that moment in history, except to point out that “We have no idea what’s in store for us in the morning.”

My point today, of course, is that life is not fair.

It is unfair that all the female teenagers these days are beautiful. I just got a graduation announcement from a young cousin who graduated from high school — your usual sort of girl, nice and all — and , folks, she is, well, gorgeous. I’m thinking of not sending her a gift. Because it isn’t fair that, back in our day, it was just the opposite. We were traffic-stoppers and I mean that in a bad way. I, for one, was forbidden to go anywhere near a major highway in the daylight, and my friends had the same problem. Okay, but you know what I mean.

And of course, there are more ordinary tragedies than that — enough to go around.

I think it is unfair that (I’ve mentioned this before) sugarless candy has almost as many calories as the sugary stuff.

I think it is unfair that most of us feel pretty much the way Scarlett O’Hara does in “Gone With the Wind” (”I’m not going to worry about it today — I’ll think about it tomorrow.”) But none of us look anywhere near as good doing it.

This one’s pretty tragic. I sang the National Anthem to open the Cumberland Fair, oh about 35 years ago. Did a bang-up job until I got to the rockets’ red glare — and forgot the words. They came out something like “And the okems said gair” and I was never invited back again, even though I actually recovered quickly, somewhere around “the bombs bursting in air.”

So life is not only unfair, it can be cruel.

Overweight is cruel and unfair, although we all try to do what we can to take it off. A friend of mine always sucks in her stomach when she steps on the scale. “That won’t affect your weight,” said another friend. “No, but it lets me see the numbers on the scale.” (I stole that one.)

Well, as the poet Reed Whittemore once wrote, “It is not clear/ Where we go from here/ Or for that matter/ Who we’re.”

Maude McDaniel is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears on alternate Sundays in the Times-News.