What are The Odds (The Right Way)

“Success is simple.  Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.” ~Arnold H. Glasow

“If the odds are a million to one against something occurring, chances are 50-50 it will” ~Unknown

“I’ll enter the same calculations using what we like to call ‘The Right Way’.” ~Fred Randall, Rocketman

What-Are-The-OddsSo the day finally arrives and our household goods are actually on-island and scheduled for delivery.  The movers are due over sometime in the morning, and since our front door is usually ajar for Cleo’s sake (our cat; it’s hard to open doors without a thumb), I hear the moving trucks arrive and it’s only 7:45!  This is going to be a GOOD, early start to the day.

I am called down to inspect the customs seals that are placed on the wooded crates which are they themselves sealed with nails and metal banding.  As I approach the trucks, the first thing I do is count the crates:  we should have six remaining (one, and only one was delivered on-time back in October).

There were eight on the truck.

Well,” I think to myself, “they must have another delivery this afternoon.  No worries!”  After all, the name scribbled on the crates was “KING.”

The movers are all busy undoing the crates; hammering nails out here, cutting metal bands there, prying and splintering wood wherever wood happens to be, and staging moving equipment in order to get the 6,000+ pounds we have been expecting for oh so long up safely and securely to our 5th floor condo.  I am handed the move paperwork government forms in all their finest regalia (as you might imagine), and the customs seal stickers and numbers on those forms are pointed out for me to verify.  I like these guys; they strictly follow standard operating procedures.  Except…

Houston, we have a problem.

They seem to be missing some "stuff," too....

They seem to be missing some “stuff,” too….

None of the seals on the paperwork match any of the seals physically on the crates.  Not even close.  I call the head-mover-guy over and tell him, with a nervous smile, “No matches….”

He is very confused.

He takes the paper work, and looks back and forth between the numerous shifted sheets and the crates a number of frantic times.  He points out the name on the wooded sides of the crates written sloppily in fat permanent black marker, almost like really bad, conservative graffiti.  “Yes, that’s my name….”  There was even a leading initial “J,” for Jody we all assumed, since the move is in her name and under her social security number (I was simply an authorized agent).  He goes back to his paperwork, while I at the same instant spy in the upper corners of the crates a letter-sized piece of paper…too far away to read, but most certainly containing…the small print.

We really shouldn't assume as much as we do....

We really shouldn’t assume as much as we do….

The devil is always in the details.

Turns out, on closer and more careful inspection, this particular shipment was for a “Joshua King, E7, Kadena Air Force Base.”

I was dumbfounded.  What Are the Odds – WATO???  I had an old Skipper from my flying days in the Navy who used the phrase to great effect all the time.  Meaning, no matter how remote the odds may be, if you play with chance enough, your number comes up.  For instance, we used to “cloud-chase,” where we would weave around and through the puffy clouds which are always around the aircraft carrier, relying on the “big-sky, little-airplane” theory of airspace deconfliction.  “WATO?” our skipper would ask, rhetorically of course, but the point was firm.

This is especially true when attempting to navigate an asteroid field....

This is especially true when attempting to navigate an asteroid field….  Or get your HHG to Japan.

chances-of-dyingBut seriously!  There was another inbound shipment to Okinawa (our little corner of the world which we currently occupy), which arrived at the same time, on the same ship, for someone in the military with the same name, and even same first initial.  It seemed rather unbelievable, and certainly incredible enough actually to make me rather incredulous!

Trying to contain my growing frustration and anger, I don’t even take my eyes off the paper-plasted crates when I call out rather loudly (and probably rudely I imagine), “This isn’t my stuff.”

More confusion abounds.  It’s bad enough already that there is a really arduous language barrier between us.  Think about it; throughout Europe and South America, you can pretty easily get by without knowing the language.  The written characters of the language are easily readable and perhaps even wholly recognizable, and there’s a basic, generalized understanding of pronunciation.  Worst case, you can simply match up words and phrases.  Besides, many people in these regions speak English rather well.

Okinawa 2013, Kwuirky Home, dryer control translationAlmost none of this holds true in Okinawa, and the same can be said for many if not most places in Asia, at least those outside of the urbanized areas, particularly where westerners travel, visit, or do business.  Some of the language’s characters here are so complex that it takes a great deal of study to match; you should’ve seen me try to switch on the heat here using our air conditioner remote controls – all in Japanese; hypothermia was setting in by the time I could claim victory!  I explain to the moving crew that my wife’s first name is “Jody,” not “Joshua,” and the realization of the mistake slowly – and finally sets in.

I made Jody call me "Boris" for a day after supplying her heat.

I made Jody call me “Boris” for a day after supplying her heat.

The head-cheese-mover-guy is immediately on the phone with higher headquarters.  I interrupt:  “YOU DO HAVE MY STUFF, RIGHT?”  I’ll tell you this; it was much more of a demand at that point than a question.  “Hai!” came the polite response…with a smile…that just didn’t seem quite right.

It may be a good course, but not a good course of action.

It may be a good course, but not a good course of action.

How much faith do you put in a simple, single word response after going through all of this!?!  Not much.  In the military doing the things that I did, part of becoming quite deft at tactical and strategic planning and execution is that “hope” is not a good course of action, and “faith” is not proactive approach to any situation.

Sometimes faithlessness is punishable.

Sometimes faithlessness is disturbingly punishable.

I am immediately on the phone with the moving company.  I am placed on-hold; no doubt they are probably calling the head-cheese-mover-guy standing right in front of me on his phone to the same place…and both are most likely getting a busy signal!  The very nice and polite English-speaking Okinawan woman at the mover’s office comes back on the line and says, with some measure of relief, “We have your things here; the movers will be back in one hour!”

Now that is hard to believe; remember the thoughts about hope and faith above….  An hour to drive back to the warehouse, unload the trucks (there were two of them), find the right crates, load the right crates back on the trucks, and then drive back to my condo?  Seemed unlikely to me.  I was in no mood to be patronized.

We experienced drama that can only be properly captured in a pop #1 hit.  Sung by a boy-band....

We experienced drama that can only be properly captured in a pop #1 hit. Sung by a boy-band….

Not trusting the system any longer (it is a government-procured and controlled process after all), I asked her rather flatly:  “How many crates do you have.”  “Six,” came the replay.  Good, that was the right – and correct answer.  “What is the first name on the paperwork?”  “Jody-san.”  Right again.  “Okay, one hour; really?”  “Hai!  One hour!!”  I wouldn’t bet on it.

Okinawa Dec 2013, Qwuirky Home, living area

Our Qwuirky Home, with our Goofy Goods

Our Qwuirky Home, with our Goofy Goods

And I would’ve lost.  In the end, the movers did return within an hour, and, perhaps, more incredibly, they returned with the right stuff (the efficiency and responsiveness of the Japanese service industry is the subject of a blog of its own).  The crates were unloaded, our things are here (that quality of the move will be discussed later), and the movers were still gone by about 1 pm, ultimately righting a major wrong in our world…

Okinawa Dec 2013, Qwuirky Home, dining area and computer workstation

…against it seemed, all odds.

What moving horror story do YOU have to share?


Kishikaisei: Long Odds & Unlikely Connections

“Kishikaisei” is a Japanese phrase which is used when someone “recovers from a hopeless situation,” for example, in sports when a loosing side snatches victory from the jaws of defeat.  Or like when a man meets not one, not two, but three Godzilla on the mean streets of Japan.

Not 1, Not 2, But THREE Godzilla!

Not 1, Not 2, But THREE Godzilla!

“It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in.  However, not every one of them is inhabited.  Any finite number divided by infinity is as near nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero.  From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely products of a deranged imagination.”  ~Douglas Adams quotes (British comic Writer, 1952-2001)

“At different states in our lives, the signs of love may vary:  dependence, attraction, contentment, worry, loyalty, grief, but at the heart, the source is always the same.  Human beings have the rare capacity to connect with each other, against all odds.” ~Unknown (sourced from ThinkExist.com).

“WATO.” ~A former Skipper in the Naval Aviation Training Command.  WATO stands for “What Are The Odds,” implying that things will happen if you keep pushing or testing them, even against the longest odds.

The Odds of a Meltdown are Supposed to be Quite Long.... Oops.

The Odds of a Meltdown are Supposed to be Quite Long…. Oops.

Although some of my friends may consider me a product of their deranged imagination – and you know who you are, I try and keep the schizophrenics in my life to a bare minimum.  Mr. Adams makes an interesting and humorous point, but being a former “math-lete” from high school and college, his underlying assumptions are flawed.  Technically speaking, his stated quotient tends towards zero as a limit since there is, in fact, a finite number of worlds, but it is not zero.  Whew.  Dodged a bullet with that whole imagination thing and actually existing and all….

I do math, therefore I am.

Oh, and nerds need love too.

Love a Nerd

Love a Nerd

As those of you who have been following my blogs may recall that one of my most cherished pieces of prose is the “Desiderata.”  It has played in central elements of my life for the last two decades now, from helping me through a painful divorce, to being the keystone of a recent memorial I penned for a departed friend, to forming the basis for my wedding vows with Jody.  I have even nicknamed my wife “Desi-D” in acknowledgement of the very meaning of the singular desideratum in Latin:  Desired Thing.

Tom Cruise Makes an Odd Yet Alluring Samurai.  Maybe the Last One....

Tom Cruise Makes an “Odd” Yet Alluring Samurai. Maybe the Last One….

The ability of humans to connect is quite amazing, no matter the odds.  Famous, timeless books, award-wining movies, the most popular songs, and the greatest emotional poetry all find some common root in at least facing, but usually overcoming all odds.  What makes The Notebook so damn good?  Love against all odds!  Okay, I’m a former mathlete who likes chick-flicks, and yes, I do own the movie.  This notion remains quite congruent with the very nature of Desiderata, which expounds that “…no doubt the universe is unfolding how it should.”  One would think in this age of massive information overload shared in mere instants anywhere across the globe, that unlikely connections would be less likely to occur.  That they happen at all should amaze and inspire each of us to contemplate the very nature of our personal lives.  We all live the greatest stories and star in the most profound roles.  We just have to see and embrace our parts.

The Odds are Exceedingly Good of Me Owning This Movie

The Odds are Exceedingly Good of Me Owning This Movie

Jody was in training this morning at the Hospital here on Okinawa where the safety briefings she was receiving included motorcycle safety.  Why this subject is covered in such a broad-brush safety overview is beyond me; very few Americans ride motorcycles on Okinawa, thanks to the US military making it such a royal pain-in-the-ass thing to do.  The opening slide of this particular section of the briefing contained a textual overlay and introduction to the subject, but had as its background, two photos.  Turns out one of the photos is me (see below).  On a motorcycle, in Okinawa, from 2005 just before I sold my bike and moved back to the states.  What are the odds?

WATO of this photo being used at Jody's new workplace?

WATO of this photo being used at Jody’s new workplace?

I have had a keychain since either 1999 or 2000 that I purchased in Okinawa my first time stationed here, but have never used…until now.  Someway, somehow, out of all the things I’ve moved (4 complete relocations since that tour:  Japan-Miami-Japan-Pensacola-Jody’s), the stuff lost in my divorce, and those items trashed, sold, or given away over the last 13+ years, this thing has not only survived, but it resurfaced in this move to Japan after being completely forgotten about and stashed away.

The Odds of a Blonde Short-Skirted Nurse in Japan are Lower than a Meltdown.

The Odds of a Blonde Short-Skirted Nurse in Japan are Lower than a Meltdown.

I probably didn’t use this back in the day as my kids were younger and my ex-wife was psychotically jealous, even of such an icon.  I really don’t know why I picked this particular image at the time, although I am a total fan of pinups and their associated fashion from bygone eras, and remain a lover of hats on women.  Plus, the Japanese anime quality of the image is so iconic for anyone who’s spent any amount of time in the wonderful and weird country.  And, without being too chauvinistic, what man doesn’t like the notion of a nurse taking care of him?  No disrespect to nurses or the nursing profession, mind you.  At the time, there was no nurse or nursing in my life.  But there is now.  In fact, I often introduce my wife as “…the prettiest nurse in the Navy,” something she no longer embarrasses over.  And now this keychain serves, proudly, as the keeper of my keys here on Okinawa.

Now, if I could only get Jody to wear one of those hats….

The Odds of Godzilla Risking Spilling His Beer in an Attack?  Infinitely Low....

The Odds of Godzilla Risking Spilling His Beer in an Attack? Infinitely Low….

And finally, just before we relocated to Okinawa, Jody’s command was throwing a formal military event called a “Dinning Out.”  This event, as a military function, required of course the males to wear uniforms; traditionally for evening formals, females in uniform are given the option of even gown or dress uniform, much to my happiness.  The formal uniforms, generally called “Mess Dress,” are not often worn, and usually those that just frantically purchased them have many questions and concerns about how to wear one properly.  When Jody’s coworkers were googling “Navy officer mess dress,” guess what comes up as one of the top results?  See below….  Don’t ask me why they weren’t reading the Navy’s uniform regulations.  Google is way too full of bad gouge….

Google has made me a Navy Uniform Reference

Google has made me a Navy Uniform Reference

These connections which appear from time-to-time in our lives, much too often to be attributable to mere chance, are a tangible illustration that we are not that far removed from one another as we may seem.  It hints, strongly given the long odds of such occurrences at all, that there is more to the universe than simply matter and energy.  That while all of its systems large and small may continually tend to disorder (the Law of Entropy, more correctly the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics – remember, I am a nerd), it is in such uniquely human connections that we can start to find order in the chaos, and we can take some measure of comfort that the universe is, indeed, unfolding how it should.

The Odds are Good that you'd find a Japanese Woman still wearing this Bikini

The Odds are Good that you’d find a Japanese Woman still wearing this “Bikini”

What are the odds?  Indeed.  Sometimes they don’t matter.

Real Airplane?  The Odds would Emphatically State:  NO

Real Airplane Paint Scheme? The Odds would Emphatically State: NO