SCREWED.

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THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF LUCK. ONLY ONE OF THEM WON'T RUN OUT ON YOU
[posted 02.22.2002]

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JANUARY. 2002. THE YEAR is new, yet the sensation of my limbs solidifying mid-step remains unchanged. The chill outside has become nothing short of unbearable, and I ask myself, Can’t they make winter illegal already? I don’t know anyone who actually likes this freezing weather, except my roommate. Of course, she’s lived with me for five years; ergo, she is clearly a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

I have this great idea: To counteract the frozen tundra of death that New York City has become, I purchase a new coat. I choose it specifically with warmth in mind. I bring it home, where it remains in my possession for 24 hours, at which point I give it to a woman at a store where they fix coats, and she says she’ll add a button hole to it. In return for payment, mind you. A simple request.

It has been there for over a month. Why? Because she apparently “forgot she had it.” Interesting. Meanwhile, I’m layering hooded sweatshirts under this ridiculous fleece thing and fielding questions such as “Um, do you know how retarded you look?” and “Why don’t you get a warmer coat?” from the ten-year-old I babysit for. Why? Why is it always me?!?

I once dropped a Cover Girl compact mirror and it smashed. I think the seven years of bad luck have really kicked into high gear now, what with the shitty economy, the lack of people producing shows for me to audition for, the fact that I would get more use out of my college degree if I used it as kindling and the sad truth that no one is calling me up and begging me to rule a small but significant country or island. And yet, all these things have not made me lose hope. I think I have actually learned something vital, and I am going to share it: Living in Bad Luck City is actually the best way to go.

Bad luck is reliable. If you’re having a streak of bad luck, the likelihood is you’re on top of what’s coming next and can prepare for it. No rugs get pulled out from under you if you already know that nothing is going to go your way. Thinking happy thoughts? That’s just asking for disappointment. Better not to be led astray by hopes of good fortune but to instead accept the crapbasket of a life you have.

To illustrate this point, I will share a string of events that recently befell me.

I was at a temp job where I had to call executive-type people and ask them questions they had no interest in answering. Thus I spent six hours being hated by people I’d never even met. As a bonus, I then had to go to the doctor. I realized too late that the computer clock was 20 minutes slow, and in my whirlwind rush I proceeded to get on the wrong train, which I of course didn’t realize until I was 25 minutes out of my way. (The N/R has some nerve splitting off like that, I say. And are indoor stations too much to ask?) I got off, called the doctor’s office to explain and sat down to wait for the next train. It was cold out, being winter and all, and me without my friggin’ coat, so I reached for my gloves. And? One was gone! Lost on the stupid train I’d just gotten off, no doubt!

I jumped around yelling “Fuck everything!” for a minute or two, attracting some stares and warming up some, but it didn’t cheer me up the way it usually does. So I just stood there with one hand wrapped in my scarf like a fool, waiting for the sky to fall on my head. I finally arrived at the doctor’s office an hour late, and then waited for ages to learn that he was running behind and only had time to take my vitals. Then, to add insult to injury, he gave me a SHOT and it hurt and I was very mad.

I went home and ate half a jar of peanut butter and felt extremely ill. Not to be deterred from my New Year’s Resolution of Happiness, however, I grandly vowed that the next day would be better. And was it? No. Of course not.

I went back to this job, made more calls and checked my ever-disappointing email InBox. I should mention that at the time I was waiting to hear about a magazine job for which I’d applied. I knew it was a lost cause because it had been so long, but I kept checking anyway, to no avail. I felt myself losing marble after marble as the reality set in: I was being paid nine bucks an hour to call companies with names like Corn Products International based in Kansas and ask about their minority hiring policies. This was what I was getting up at seven o’clock in the morning to do. I won’t even mention (oh, okay, yes I will) the woman who kept hauling these enormous bags of garbage past my desk and stacking them in a corner. She appeared to have a never-ending supply of garbage somewhere in the office and she’d just drag it around, glaring at me. It was hard trying not to laugh — instead I ended up making these weird strangled noises, which seriously alarmed my coworkers. This situation was worsened when I started picturing what would happen if, instead of saying my spiel when the unsuspecting victims answered my calls, I just started mooing into the phone.“MOOO!” Let me tell you — if you ever want to make people you work with nervous, try weeping with silent laughter while bent double over a desk and attempting not to make any noise. Be sure to do it when there is obviously no reason for you to be laughing.

Oh yes. It had gotten to that point.

At last THAT day ended and I walked to the train thinking that things could now be better. I reached for my Metrocard…but wait! Where was my wallet? Gone! Maybe it had run away to find my missing glove. Now I was without ID, bank card or train fare home. I had to COLLECT CHANGE to get my ass back to Brooklyn.

So what happened? Well, I got home, raged around my apartment awhile, canceled my credit cards, called my mother and whined and then checked my email one last time. What the hell, right? How much worse could it get?

There was a letter from the magazine.

They wanted me to come for an interview the next week! They really liked my writing samples! Life was good! I had plenty of change saved for laundry that I could use for the train! I could LIVE again, grinning broadly at the world!

Then my cat threw up on my head at 3:30 a.m.

YOU CANNOT TRUST GOOD LUCK. It has no guarantees or warranties. It is fickle and it likes to laugh at us mere humans. When it gets bored it will leave without warning.

Good luck is like a really attractive member of the opposite sex (or the same sex, depending on what you like). It is so easy to lose sight of reality in the face of all that glitter and sparkle. Now I’ve got it, you think. This is the one, the one I’m going to spend the rest of my life with, the one who’ll never let me down. Ah, bliss. And what happens? When things get rough, out the door it goes. Unbendable, undependable and unbefriendable.

But bad luck? You can rely on bad luck. It will always be there, waiting to pay a visit. You won’t like it, but you can count on it. And in this world, my friends, it is important to know whom to trust. TRUST BAD LUCK. It won’t walk out on you.

So the next time someone stops you on the street and asks you why you aren’t smiling, for crying out loud, remember this: It’s okay to be a grouch, a slouch, a “my-magic-beans-got-lost-in-my couch” kind of guy or gal. At least you don’t get stuck cleaning up messes you didn’t anticipate.

Oh, did I forget to mention that the guy who went to Ireland never did call me when he got back? Well, it’s okay, because I saw him at a party a month or so later — with his new girlfriend — on a night when I was wearing an especially short skirt. And who do you think called me up a week later asking me to go see some band, hmmm? Why, Mr. Ireland, of course. I said I was — yawn — too tired. In reality, I didn’t care about him anymore because I was crazy excited about a new guy that I liked so much more than Ireland Man or anyone else that I couldn’t believe it might possibly be for real. And guess what?!? Two days later, right after introducing me to his parents, the new guy told me he was emotionally unavailable and couldn’t be involved in a serious relationship! Isn’t that just fucking terrific? Luckily, thanks to my aforementioned epiphany on the virtues of welcoming bad luck, I was already prepared for this turn of events. So there. Ha.

Ice cream helps. Really.

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meredith zeitlin is a writer and actor in new york city, where she is currently struggling with the chronic unemployment that seems to go hand in hand with those professions. she is a graduate of northwestern university and likes ice cream a whole lot.