Whether we embrace it, fight it, admit it, or deny it, the fact remains that much of life is based on luck. Luck plays a role from the beginning, choosing the family we are a part of and the home we grow up in. Luck makes sure that we’re in the right place at the right time so that we can experience the thrill of spotting Al Pacino leaving a fancy New York City restaurant just as we’re passing in front. And luck can even determine the outcome of a special day, as was the case on Tuesday, David’s birthday.
I have been in Spain long enough to know that arriving at an intended destination requires a fair amount of luck. It’s not that the roads are dangerous, that the cars speed or that the drivers are crazy. Instead, it’s because our scooter does not come equipped with GPS and looking at a map is, literally, quite pointless. On paper, the roads look straightforward. In reality, numerous freeways converge and then separate, easily sweeping you down the wrong path. And everything’s connected by roundabouts – those European-style, circular intersections where cars enter from all directions, go ’round the roundabout and then spew out in all different directions. They’re effective in that they keep the traffic moving, but they’re also equally effective in turning you around in circles until you have entirely lost all sense of direction.
So, as we set out for the huge water reservoir with our beach towel and sandwiches ready for a picnic, I knew that we would need luck to be on our side. But when we couldn’t find the freeways and we were still driving when we should have already arrived, I had a grim feeling that luck had been reserved for someone else that day. Frustrated with roads that didn’t make any sense, we pulled over to check Google Earth on David’s iPhone. It was our trusty backup if the faulty roads led us astray. But even the iPhone failed us as it took an eternity to pull up the map while we quickly wilted under the hot, mid-afternoon sun.
The situation was getting desperate and I knew that we would need to create – and execute – a Plan B. According to a sign that we had just passed, Orihuela was only seven kilometers away, so I suggested that we abandon the plan of the reservoir and eat our sandwiches on Orihuela’s beaches instead. We knew the city of Orihuela but had never been to its beaches. We got back on the scooter, and, energized with new purpose, followed the clearly labeled signs until they led us to a roundabout and then abandoned us there, leaving us to turn around in circles. There was not a sign or a beach to be seen and we soon became even more frustrated than before.
Roads merged off in all directions, but none of them looked very promising. Recklessly, David randomly chose a bumpy road that, to me, looked to be the least promising of all. And just when I was convinced that this whole deviation would only prolong our suffering, we suddenly arrived at a small village and, miraculously, found a clearly labeled sign for Orihuela’s beaches! And not only was there a sign for the beaches, but, lo and behold, there was a sign for the reservoir, our original destination that we had given up hope of finding a long time ago!
We were back on track, the day was looking brighter, and, suddenly, we were climbing in altitude as a beautiful reservoir opened beneath us. We were on a winding road that led around the circumference, offering up spectacular views from above of clear blue water below. It was beautiful and natural and made our long search worth every frustrating ounce of it.
We parked the scooter and joined the frogs, lizards, crickets, ants and bees and ate our sandwiches on a rocky ledge overlooking the water. We were alone with nature, content to have successfully arrived and very happy to finally be eating.
We enjoyed the view until the bees chased us away, and then we were back on the road, tempting our luck as we tried to find our way once more. And only briefly did we fear that we were lost yet again when we arrived at an intersection and weren’t sure which way to go. But it turned out that it was only because we were behind a big truck and couldn’t see the sign. We scooted around the truck to turn to the right, failed to obey a very obvious stop sign and pulled out – as luck would have it – right in front of two motorcycle cops.
And, as soon as I saw them, I braced myself for what was to come, for I knew that such an obvious traffic violation wouldn’t go unnoticed by the cops that were now directly behind us. They might turn their heads in small villages but not here, not on such major roads. Plus, these cops looked like they were out for blood. And they were. Less than a minute later, one of the cops pulled up next to us, passed us and pulled over. It was my first encounter with the Spanish police, David’s second. (During our pre-scooter days, David had gotten desperate and borrowed a motorized skateboard that his brother had purchased in California but never actually used in Spain. It didn’t take long for the police to notice the foreign object, and, on David’s very first joyride, he got pulled over by two police on foot, nonetheless, who came running after him and asked for registration and insurance, neither of which David had, of course, for this gadget on wheels. So foreign was the “vehicle” that they even called the police station to have the captain, himself, come out to determine whether the skateboard was legal or not. The captain didn’t even need to get out of the car to make up his mind and, with a simple shake of the head, he delivered his verdict. In the end, the cops let David off without penalty but only after taking a picture of the skateboard with handlebars to keep on file and a threat to come to our home if ever another such object was spotted cruising the streets of Torrevieja. From that point forward, the skateboard was no longer allowed on the streets and David was given a choice: either they confiscate the skateboard right then and there and David’s brother, who lives in France, would have to go to station to recuperate it or David could call someone with a car to pick up him and the skateboard. David chose the second option and his dad came within 10 minutes. Needless to say, that was David’s last joyride and the skateboard has stayed put ever since in David’s dad’s apartment.)
So here we were, facing certain doom as the two cops circled around us, their latest prey. How cruel luck was to allow this to happen on David’s birthday! It all seemed so unjust. Surely, the cops would have pity on us if they knew how bad their timing was to be pulling us over on such an important day. So, as one of the cops took charge of the situation and started reprimanding David for not stopping, I silently practiced one very important sentence, a sentence that I was sure would be the key to our freedom: “Hoy, es su cumpleaños!” If ever I needed to speak Spanish, I needed it then to tell these cops that it was David’s birthday. And, as David was meekly trying to defend his obvious traffic blunder, I opened my mouth and delivered my message. But they didn’t even look my way. Perhaps I hadn’t said it loud enough? I tried it again but, again, no one seemed to hear my declaration. Then David was saying it and attempting to relay just how innocent and harmless we really were by telling the cop about our nice picnic complete with sandwiches, and, this time, the cop heard. But he absolutely couldn’t care less and responded curtly, “Look, I don’t care if you had a sandwich party in the water reserve. You didn’t stop.” Please, have mercy! He was now asking for David’s papers and examining David’s international driver’s license, asking why David hadn’t gotten his Spanish license yet. Then, he moved on to check the registration, quickly discovering that it was no longer valid because the 60 days to transfer the scooter in our name had passed. Shoot. I hadn’t realized that we needed to do that! The potential charges were piling up and now I just sat silently praying because I had nothing left to say, no additional arguments that could possibly get us out of this mess. The cop left to consult with his colleague. Together, they would decide our fate and I couldn’t bear to watch. He solemnly returned and, without a word, gave David back his papers. There was a moment of awkward confusion, and then, just like that, the cop let us off with only a warning to drive more carefully. Luck – beautiful, sweet luck – was still with us after all!
And then, as we silently rejoiced over having successfully dodged our uncomfortably close encounter with the law, I heard a voice behind me and turned around to see a prostitute wearing nothing but a bra and a thong. She was one of the most scantily clad prostitutes I had seen thus far! And she had come from out of nowhere to join our little party on the side of the road. As she confidently sauntered up to us, I tried to make sense of the situation. Here we were nearly shaking from our brush with the law over a minor traffic violation, and here she was, clearly an illegal prostitute, who had willingly entered the scene while declaring, with a snicker, “Looks like I have company.”
The situation didn’t make sense, but we left without trying to figure it out. I don’t know what the cops did or what happened to the prostitute. All I know is that we got lucky that day. And though we had initially lamented our bad luck of being pulled over on David’s birthday, perhaps it was our good luck that it happened on that day and not the day before or the day after. For even though it had barely seemed to matter to the cop, the fact that it was David’s birthday surely must have pulled at some heartstrings and persuaded them to go easy on us that day. Or perhaps it had nothing at all to do with that. Perhaps, it was the random appearance of an especially sexy prostitute that successfully distracted the cops from their prey.
Luck is elusive. We can’t influence it, we can’t alter it, and we certainly can’t control it. But when we do get lucky, it’s important to be cognizant of it. And it’s important to trust in luck, for what might, at first, appear to be an unlucky turn of events might actually be in our favor if we just let luck run its course.