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Dreaming Again

Grimes and the Gaijin Daimyo the first A Bertram Chandler story to be published in 24 year is now available in the Anthology Dreaming Again edited by Jack Dann.






















"The Principle" Revisited
www.bertramchandler.com/principle.aspx

The Log One of the leading American science fiction magazines is, currently, having a great deal of fun in its correspondence columns with what its Editor calls “Finagle’s Law.” As the learned Editor is a graduate of M.I T., and as most of his readers seem to he scientists, engineers and technicians (the publication has been referred to as “Technicians’ Bedtime Stories”), the correspondence is being maintained on a remarkably high plane and quite a number of the letters printed abound in abstruse mathematical formulae. Finagle’s Law, however, seems to boil down to just this if anything can go wrong, it will.

Finagle’s Law operates powerfully in everyday life as well as in scientific experiments and the like. A year or so ago, as a matter of fact, I wrote a short story called “The Principle,” in which I dealt with what I called the Principle of Natural Cussedness. It was published, although not in the magazine above mentioned. Even so, Finagle’s Law seems to he no more than an elaboration of my own Principle.

Many examples of the working of the Principle spring readily to mind. Any seaman will tell you that the prevailing winds in any part of the world are head winds. Anybody who has two, or more, similar keys on a ring will find that the last key he tries will be the one to fit the lock that he is attempting to open. Anybody who is in a real hurry will find that the obstacles strewn in his path are too many to he accounted for by the Laws of Random.

With reference to the above, and assuming that, in addition to being in a hurry, you are lost, the validity of either one of two axioms will be estab­lished as soon as you ask the only passer-by within sight for directions.

1—He will be a stranger here himself.

2—He will he a newly arrived immigrant without a word of English.

(A combination of 1 and 2 is, of course, highly probable.)

My wife, however, recently discovered yet a third axiom. It was, perhaps, inevitable that she would do so since she is multilingual, it being very unlikely that 2 could ever apply in her case.
On the day of the great discovery, I was returning from Melbourne to Sydney by air -- a flight of about two hours’ duration-my plane being due to arrive at Mascot at 7.00 p.m. On the same day she, as usual, went to work in the family car, a vehicle with a quite pleasing outward aspect but, at times, unreliable innards. On her way to the factory, of which she is production manager - it is on the outskirts of Sydney and very inconveniently situated as regards public transport - she picked up her usual three passengers, members of her staff. At 4.30 p.m. work was finished for the day and she, with her passengers, proceeded homewards. In the normal course of events she would have arrived home at 5.30 p.m., giving her time to relax and, perhaps, to put dinner in the oven before coming out to the airport to meet me.

The car, however, decided to break down miles from anywhere. One of the passengers was sent trudging to the nearest telephone box, there to request aid from the motorists’ association of which my wife is a member. Aid was a long time coming, the reason for this being an error in the transmission of radio orders to the breakdown van. The driver of the van cruised up and down for 20 minutes on the south side of a railway bridge, hunting in vain for the car which was, of course, broken down on the north side of the bridge. After more telephoning this situation was ironed out, but the temporary repairs took a long time.

Having deposited her passengers, at long last, at the nearest convenient public transport, my wife found that she had no time to go home ; she had barely time enough to get to Mascot by 7.00 p.m. She decided to take short cuts - invariably a fatal decision - and soon became lost. She stopped and asked the first passer-by for directions.

He was not a stranger here himself.

He was not a newly arrived immigrant without a word of English.

He was something almost as bad - the victim of a terrible stammer – and it Look him all of 15 minutes to say that any road to the right would do.
Even then, the night’s troubles were far from over. The first road to the right was a one way street and my wife, of course, was going the wrong way. Having disentangled herself from this situation, she came roaring into the airport at almost supersonic speed just as a plane, which she assumed to be the Melbourne flight, was landing. (The Melbourne plane, of course, had been ordered to hang off for 15 minutes and was cruising over Sydney . ..) She saw a disembarking passenger who, from the rear, looked like me. She left the car and chased after him, yelling out my name and getting more and more infuriated when he did not reply. She finally caught up with him just as he was boarding the airlines’ coach.

Her natural assumption then was that I had not travelled on the 5.00 p.m. flight from Melbourne and that there would be a telegram waking for her at home to advise her of this. Fortunately, she made a few enquiries and discovered that the Melbourne plane was yet to arrive.

I was rather surprised and pained by the chilliness of my reception.

This, however, could be accounted for by one last axiom of the Principle of Natural Cussedness

No matter what jam your wife gets into, and no matter where you are at the time, it is ALL YOUR FAULT.

Originally Published in The Log - May/Jun 1954