Last night, after coming home late, and looking for something to accompany my dinner of hot soup, I watched some throwaway episode of some throwaway show in syndication.
The premise of the episode was that just one little thing can change the outcome of your whole day. It was a riff on the Butterfly Effect complete with a CG butterfly.
I actually thought it was a clever bit of television writing, and it was highly satisfying, along with my chicken soup.
This morning, I had occasion to revisit this bit of chaos theory as I made my way into work.
I left the house a skosh later than I'd wanted to, and when I fired up the Jeep, the gas indicator began making noises at me. I had to stop for gas, making me run even later.
The closest gas station is located on a road out of town that I don't usually take, because along that road there are three schools. The parents dropping off their kids always backs up traffic, so I avoid it.
But that wasn't the worst of it. In addition to running later than usual, and running into school traffic by taking a road I normally don't take, it turns out there was a traffic light blinking at the most critical intersection (right before the highway entrance). So traffic on that road was backed up for about five miles.
And because I sat for an hour on a road that should normally take ten minutes to traverse, I got to work much later than usual, meaning I had a hard time finding a parking spot. The one I did find was a tight squeeze by a wall in the parking garage, and so I dinged my own door on the way out.
It also means the work cafeteria was out of orange juice by the time I got there.
And my staff gave me an arched eyebrow when I did finally roll into my office.
All this really bodes for a great day, right? Ugh.
So as I sit here at my desk drinking coffee instead of OJ, I got to thinking about how just one little thing had ruined my whole good day.
At first I blamed the traffic light. That damn light! If not for the flapping butterfly wing of that stupid busted stoplight I would have made it to work on time!
But that's not really true, is it?
It's that I rolled out of the house late. Had I had my you-know-what together and left earlier, there would have been less traffic.
But that's also not really true, is it? Because even leaving late, I would have taken a different road and been fine...if I had a full tank of gas.
The crux of this whole thing was my empty gas tank.
See, last night when I was driving home, my near empty gas tank was already beeping at me. I could have stopped for gas on the route home, but feeling lazy and tired, I chose not to.
So the flapping wing, really, was my decision not to stop and get petrol last night.
That one decision has blown my whole Wednesday morning.
And unlike the television show, I can't do a second act on this day and show what would have happened if the decisions had gone differently.
I have to, as The Good Man says, "just play through".
That there is chaos theory, Karen style.