Killed by Donkeys

I've never purchased a lottery ticket because the chances of winning the big one are less than being struck by lightening or being killed by a donkey. But things have happen to me that have even smaller odds of occurrence, so perhaps I should buy a lottery ticket.

When I was a sophomore in high school in Ohio, one of my female classmates moved away. I don't know where her family moved. When I was a senior, my parents took my sister and I on a vacation to Teton National Park. While in the park we went to a lodge for lunch. Our waitress was the girl who moved away in my sophomore year.

During my second year at a small college in Ohio, I was looking for a reason not to study, so one long spring weekend I hitchhiked to Washington D.C. just for the hell of it. I'd never been there. I only had four days, and it took almost two of them to get there, so I took a bus on the return trip. On the bus I sat next to a man who was a college professor at a school near Pittsburg. I had a nice long chat with him until he got off the bus in Pittsburg. I went on to Ohio.

Four years later I joined the Air Force and was driving to Waco, Texas in my new Volkswagen Beetle to report in for training. I arrived in Waco at about 3 AM and got lost trying to find the base. I ended up on the west side of Waco and pulled into a gas station to ask directions and get gas. Only one other car was there, also getting gas. It was that professor I'd met on the bus ride. He had changed schools and was headed to his new job somewhere further south in Texas.

When I first went into the US Air Force, I spent a year in aviation cadet training in Texas. The first three months I was there I had a roommate named Chip. That was probably not his formal name, but everyone called him Chip. He was in the Air National Guard, but I don't recall where. After cadet training, we were both commissioned as 2nd lieutenants and navigators. I didn't see or hear from Chip again and have no idea where he went or what he did, except that he was no doubt a weekend warrior in the guard somewhere.

Ten years passed and I had subsequently gone to pilot training and served two tours in Vietnam. It was almost 10 years to the month that I was on a mission to Iran, just prior to the fall of the Shah. I was staying in a hotel in a suburb of Tehran and was walking through the lobby when I ran into Chip coming the other way. He was also a guest at the hotel. I never saw him again after that.

One summer I met a really interesting woman at a guest ranch in Colorado. She and I were both attracted to each other, but she was traveling with "a friend" and lived in Atlanta. I was traveling with my dog and lived in Pennsylvania. A year later I was back in Colorado with my friend John from Texas. We were riding our motorcycles through Rocky Mountain National park, and on our way out of the park we made an unplanned stop at a restaurant in Grand Lake. Coming out of the restaurant was this woman from Atlanta. This time she was traveling with a different "friend."

All of these highly unlikely events came to mind the other day as I was driving from the East Coast to Colorado. I had spent the night in western Kansas and as I entered the Denver area on Interstate 70, I called my friend Pam on my cell phone to tell her I was in Colorado. I'd not seen Pam in a year. She is a cop in Salida, Colorado, about 120 miles southwest of Denver. Pam answered and said she and her friend were in Denver on business. As it turned out, they were merging onto I-70 just in front of me. I followed them and we went to lunch.

The odds of any of these five chance encounters happening are surely less than being killed by a donkey or being hit by lightening, but I've yet to experience either of those. What it does make me realize is that life is basically a long series of unplanned events, most of which we have no control over. Unfortunately most people have an unreasonable illusion of control when it comes to their lives.

There are those who believe that everything happens for a reason – a philosophy that I think is really stupid, and one that is used all to often to avoid taking responsibility. Everything does happen as a result of zillions of other things happening, a process that is well explained and supported by chaos theory. The best we can do is to pick and choose our actions, use common sense, and hope that the sequence of chaos affecting our lives brings us more good than bad. Sometimes good things happen, and sometimes we are killed by donkeys.