The Sea Bass Instinct

Pictured: timing serendipity and me

Pictured: timing serendipity and me

I’ve just missed a tram, turning a corner in time to see its tail-lights blacken as the driver released the breaks and took off into the night. I let out a groan.

I stand at the empty tram stop and try to hold on until the next one comes. I’m unbalanced and my right eye has heroically taken it upon itself to see double of everything, a visual overachievement resulting from too many Becherovkas at a party.

More than anything I’ve ever wanted, I want to be home.


I wait about thirty-seven years, or in non-drunk time about five more minutes. But then unpleasant clues begin to take shape. In the first place, there is nobody at the stop with me. Only a few people waiting for the tram going in the opposite direction. Not good. And then I notice the yellow sign. An unsettling prescience creeps over me. When there’s a yellow sign hung up at a tram stop, it means there is some detour in the route or a change in service due to work on the lines. And when you see one of these devil signs, you can only hope that the timing of that change isn’t going to completely screw you.

But to be honest, I don’t even hope anymore.

I walk (stumble) (in)to the sign. Close my right eye again.

If you have even seen Dumb & Dumber, you know who Sea Bass is. He’s the enormous and sociopathic trucker who bullies the two main characters played by Jim Carrey and Jeff Bridges. He’s played by Cam Neely, the former NHL star.

At one point in the movie, Jim Carrey’s character is in the toilet stall at a gas station, where on the wall he finds a message saying to be in the stall on March 25th at 2:15 am, for manly love. Of course, in extraordinarily unlucky serendipity, it ends up being March 25th at about 2:14:58 am. And a couple of seconds later Sea Bass, who wrote the message, comes in to love him in a man-loving way.

Sans the man love aspect, this is solidly indicative of my relationship with timing and serendipity. A sudden sense of foreboding and a quick check of my calendar will often tell me that I have a meeting in exactly twenty minutes in a place exactly twenty minutes away. A check-up on the due date of a task will often tell me that the due date is not only the same day, but that it’s within a half-hour. Forms need to be signed and sent in the next ten minutes, phone calls need to be made to the bank now, documents need to be brought to an office before 1 pm today and it’s 12:45 and they are closed for the rest of the week.

I have an inherent talent for dramatically serendipitous bad timing.

And it’s my exact relationship with these stupid yellow detour signs. No matter when the detoured route starts, I can guarantee that I am there for the genesis of it.

And tonight is no different. I am wobbly and the kind of tipsy one can usually only attain in the perfect storm of someone’s birthday, no food, and an entire town’s monthly supply of Becherovka. After closing my right eye again, I check the time. The sign reads (in Czech, of course):

Service will be suspended from 00:10 to 06:00 on Saturday, May 14.

My watch reads 00:11.

And then those at the other tram stop hear the loudest string of creative vulgarities in the history of the Czech Transport System. Which is my other inherent talent.

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