Tony Allen: And finally... Against the law

Nov 03 | 2023

I absolutely hate Murphy’s Law!

Tony AllenI am sure that many of you are fully aware of this oft quoted adage, which simply states that: ‘Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong’ or to put it another way: ‘The bus is always late but today, when I was late, the bus was on time’. Get the point?

No matter which way you look at it this effect pursues us wherever we go. I’ll give you an example. I have previously reported that we had immense problems with our Internet owing to the botched laying of fibre cables. Well – can you believe it? - we were due to go away for a well-earned holiday. We had been advised by our gas supplier that the gas piping in our road was to be updated and this was due to take place just a few days before the start of our holiday. In due course, three very nice young men turned up and said it wouldn’t take long and not to worry because “it wouldn’t effect your holiday in any way”.

“Cup of coffee?”

“Yes please, milk and two sugars.”

Everything went fine for the first half of the day when suddenly I heard one of the three nice young men starting to whistle. Now I know, as I guess you know, that when a tradesman starts to whistle it’s a sign that a problem has occurred – and this, I might add had nothing to do with my having run out of coffee.

Apparently the gas pipe which fed my property was the only one in the street that went under the adjoining side road as opposed to under the garden. Don’t ask! I know that it’s complicated, but the end result was that the refurbishment would take much longer than originally anticipated, in fact around four days before it was actually completed. Or to put it another way, two days after the start of our holiday.

Murphy’s Law I thought. The rest of our family who lived nearby were also going on holiday with us so there was nobody else to act as a responsible adult. One of the three nice young men arrived and apologised profusely. I realised that it was not their fault, but I nearly hit the roof when they informed me that they would need access to my property during the ‘job’.

Hitting the roof was about the sum total of my reaction accompanied by a vision of my hands tightly wound around the nice young man’s throat. Luckily this emotion soon passed. I had the choice of either acting like an aggressive and dynamic former businessman and issuing a series of demands, or putting on my helpless old gentleman act which can often achieve positive results.

The helpless old gentleman act was the preferred choice, probably because it was nearer the truth. My son offered to storm in and make all sorts of demands, but I told him we should try the velvet gloves first and not the iron fist. I laboured the story about us all going away on a family celebration and the nice young man promised to come back later that afternoon.

And so, sure enough, later that afternoon we had a meeting between helpless old gentleman and nice young man and his boss, who excitedly informed me that they had adjusted their schedule and that the job would be finished by “the middle of tomorrow afternoon”.  I thanked them profusely in an assumed meekly-aged voice and asked if they would like a coffee, to which they replied no thank you as they were far too busy for coffee!

One thing that this teaches me about Murphy’s Law is that just because it says that something will go wrong doesn’t necessarily mean that it will. With shades of anticlimax to this story, the gas pipe was in fact renewed and re-laid and tested and everything went fine and we all went on holiday and had a good time - that’s the family I mean, not the gas fitters.

Anyway, this only goes to show that you can perhaps achieve far more by being amiable than you can by acting out the alternative. In fact, it can often work extreme wonders – especially if perhaps you are slowly approaching your dotage.