Sassy at seventy: Murphy’s Law and mine

Jan 23, 2023
Source: Getty

Years ago everyone was familiar with Murphy’s Law, the saying that meant if anything can go wrong it will. But have you ever wondered how the saying originated? Most people assume it’s Irish, but it’s actually attributed to Captain Edward Aloysius Murphy of the United States Air Force.

After the Second World War, he became the Research and Development Officer at the Wright Air Development Center of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, working on high-speed rocket sled experiments designed to see how much sudden deceleration a person could withstand in a crash.

It was during that project, in which some sensors had been wired in backwards, that he said, “If there are two or more ways to do something and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it”. Over time and repetition, it became the short version so popular today. Another two laws were gradually added: “Nothing is as easy as it looks” and “Everything takes longer than you think it will”.

Some of us blessed (or cursed) with more catastrophes than the average expanded it to “anything that can go wrong will go wrong and at the worst possible time”.

Murphy was said by his son to have regarded the many jocular versions of the law as “ridiculous, trivial and erroneous”. Sounds like a man who needed an injection of humour. Or should have checked his sensors first.

It seems to me that Murphy shouldn’t have all the fun in instituting a law, so I propose the following:

Children’s Law

If you manage to get a day off school by pretending to be sick, the next day you wake up with tonsillitis.

Parent’s Law

See above, and know that you can’t get a sitter and you’re going to miss the interview for the job of a lifetime.

Fencing Law

The moment you’ve finished digging the holes for your posts the heavens will open and it will rain faster than you can pump out the water.

Construction Law

The week after the client signs your contract, timber and steel prices soar by 20%.

Gardener’s Law

No matter what citrus you plant, it will revert to root stock before you get your first crop.

Car Law

Cars only break down when there are no spare parts available.

Car Law 2

A chipped windscreen that would have been fixable if you’d remembered to put the repair kit in the glove box will widen like Moses parting the Red Sea before you get to the repairer.

Wedding Car Law

The 1929 Ford Model A Sedan with the red upholstery that is exactly what you want for the biggest day of your life has just been hired by the girl who took the swimming championship title from you by one second in high school.

Boat Law

It’s only after you’ve motored out into the middle of the river that you realise you forgot to screw the bung back in after you washed the boat.

Living Alone Law

If a mozzie, midge or ant bites you on the back it will be in the only spot you can’t reach, and scratching with a ruler will only make the itching worse. Any lotion dripped onto the offending bite will miss completely and fall into your bum crack.

Smoke Alarm Law 1

When your smoke alarm battery is failing, it will only let you know in the middle of the night. When it jerks you awake, you stumble out of bed, trip over the terrified cat, crash into the wall and break your arm.

Smoke Alarm Law 2

If the smoke alarm goes off at 2 am, you discover you need two cushions and a box on top of your stepladder in order to reach the ear-shattering device and wrench it off the ceiling.

Goldfish Law

When you replace your child’s dead goldfish with a look-alike from the pet store, your toilet backs up and the dead original floats to the surface as your child watches.

Rain Law 1

Everyone knows that to get it to rain you have to wash your car, hang the washing on the line and water the entire garden. 

Rain Law 2

There’s no Rain Law 2 because rain does whatever it wants to and we have no control over it. Just ask the United Arab Emirates. They use cloud-seeding technology to force rain but on several occasions have ended up with flooding.

Many years ago a book was published giving instances of Murphy’s Law in action. It was followed years later by Ms Murphy’s Law. It was very amusing, and I was going to share some of its hilarity with you, but, unfortunately, it seems to have disappeared. Perhaps Murphy’s Law is telling me that if you have too many books the one you want will be the only one you can’t find.

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