Monthly Archives: November 2011

Playing by the Rules

I have always envied behavioral psychologists and philosophers the orderly lives they lead. How consoling it must be to know the meaning of life and to have a clear understanding of the rules for living it. Without rules, of course, our day-to-day existence would be fraught with confusion and frustration. Come to think of it, even with rules, life can get pretty chaotic.

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations credits Cyril Northcote Parkinson as having said, “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” There is no truth to the rumor that it took him seventeen years to formulate his hypothesis. I take credit for proving it on a daily basis.

In an attempt to organize myself, I have made an inventory of other rules that seem to influence my behavior. Why, for instance, after carefully coiling the power cord for my laptop and stowing it in the computer case, does it reappear with all the order of a plate of spaghetti? There must be a rule about cords and ropes and garden hoses that I haven’t yet put into words.

Although the Library of Congress won’t acknowledge it, somewhere it is written that “wire coat hangers will tangle,” that “elevator occupants will face forward, eyes up,” and that “rain will fall on car-washing day.”

Another rule I’ve noticed seems applicable to all cities–Savannah included. It is not my fault that my holiday and birthday cards frequently arrive several days late. It’s because of the rule that states, “When driving in search of a mailbox, you will find it located on the wrong side of the street.”

I’ve come to understand that the solution to dealing with disorganization is to recognize these immutable laws in order to anticipate them. Then, when chaos reigns anyhow, it’s comforting to remember Universal Rule Number One: “If anything can go wrong, it will.”