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Is your bad luck coincidence or the MM Factor?

Updated on February 6, 2011


Let me first indicate to the reader that this article is more comical than it is factual. It is designed to tickle the funny bone and make you think.  I do not believe that there is some malevolent being out there who was created only to pick on men and women.  So sit back and enjoy a bit of humor and know that you are not the only one these things happen to.

You have probably heard of Murphy’s Law. Nothing is as easy as it looks. Everything takes longer than you expect and if anything can go wrong it will…at the worst possible moment.  An Air Force Captain named Edward Murphy inspired what we now know as Murphy’s Law with a statement he made after having some trouble with a measuring device he had designed.  I submit to you that the trouble he had was caused by what I call the MM Factor. A friend of mine whose name starts with M and I have, over a period of several years, come to define the MM Factor. (My nickname is Murph so you can probably guess where the MM came from.) The following paragraphs will attempt to explain what the MM Factor is and how it affects (wreaks havoc on) our daily lives.

This is how the MM Factor works. Let’s say you have a decision to make, and your choices are labeled A and B. Now A is the correct choice but you don’t know that. You can pick choice B and suffer the consequences and that is all that will happen or you can pick choice A. If you pick choice A, the correct choice, then something interesting happens. The MM Factor kicks in and warps reality and now choice B is the correct choice and you will suffer the consequences for having chosen wrong. The interesting thing is that once this has happened, choice B has always been the correct choice and you just made the wrong choice.

You are at the grocery store picking up something for supper. You are ready to check out and there are long lines at the registers. You finally move to the “next in line” position. The customer in front of you has 600 cans of baby food, 40 pot pies, 120 cans of assorted soups, 8 cases of soda pop, and the list goes on. You see also, that she has taken out her checkbook. As you wait (and wait) you watch the line to your left progress at an irritatingly fast rate. Now you can choose to move to the other line(Choice A) because there are only 3 people in line and each one has only 2 items to buy and cash in hand, or you can choose to stay in your line (Choice B) since you are next. The choice that would save you the most time is choice A.

If you choose choice B you will stand there another 10 minutes while you watch 6 more people go through the line to your left. You have chosen wrong and the MM Factor sits back and laughs at you because it didn’t even need to do anything to make you suffer. But let’s say you choose choice A. You move to the other line and all is well….right? WRONG! The line you are now in continues to move fast until you are next in line behind a man buying only a frozen pizza and a 6 pack of soda pop. Then the MM Factor kicks in, reality warps, and the bar code on the frozen pizza disappears. Now the checkout clerk cannot scan the pizza and has to call for a manager who has to call back to the frozen food section and get someone to go find this particular pizza and get a price on it. This takes a good 15 minutes as you watch the person with all the food who WAS in front of you write her check and gather all her groceries and leave…while 2 more customers come and go in that line while you wait (and steam). Choice B was the right choice and you chose wrong and the MM Factor sits back and laughs at you. Now that bar code on the frozen pizza didn’t just disappear. After the MM Factor does its thing, that bar code was never there in the first place.


Here is another example: A truck driver is driving along in the center lane of a 6 lane highway. There isn’t a lot of traffic and he can pretty much drive in any lane he wishes. But he gets the urge to move over to the right lane. Now at this point he can choose to A, stay in the center lane or B, move to the right lane. Both choices are fine in this example. One might think “How could the MM Factor possibly ruin this decision?” Ahh, but the MM Factor is a crafty one. Mr. Truck Driver decides to move over into the right lane. Immediately after completing his lane change the road gets very rough in that lane. There are potholes and cracks and bumps galore…but only in that lane. “Those potholes and bumps were there already.” you might say. “That is just coincidence!” Is it? For a few minutes the truck driver looks longingly at the center lane that is as smooth as silk while everything residing on his dashboard finds its way to the floor and he gets jolted out of his seat several times. Finally he has had enough and he decides to move back into the center lane. Once again, as soon as he finishes the lane change the right lane becomes smooth and the center lane has potholes the size of the Grand Canyon. Coincidence? You decide. By the way, this is a true story. I used to be that truck driver.

Of course one could say this is all coincidence, but that would imply that it all happened by chance and chance is not very consistent. If it were, then everyone who plays the lottery would be rich and no one would lose at poker. Having spent a number of years as a truck driver, I have come to realize that these things happen with almost mathematical regularity and just can’t be chance.

I once drove for a trucking company in Memphis, Tn. There were 2 ways to get to the terminal from the main road. One had a railroad crossing and the other required several minutes of driving out of the way to a bridge that crossed the tracks. Once I left the main road to take the short way to the terminal I was committed. There was no place to turn around before I had to cross the tracks. I could, however, see the crossing from the main road and could tell whether or not there was a train there. Here we have a classic MM Factor opportunity. No one wants to have to drive several minutes the long way around to get to a destination. Several times I would see that there was no train on the tracks and would make the turn to follow that rout to the terminal. Every time, the MM Factor would kick in, reality would, once again, warp and the train that wasn’t there, ARRIVED! Since I couldn’t turn around I had to wait several minutes for it to pass and it would always be moving slow as it was close to a railroad yard. This happened EVERY TIME. Finally I started going the long way around because it would take less time to do that than to wait for the train. As I crossed the bridge each time, I could see down the track and there would be no train for as far as I could see. This would indicate, of course, that I could have saved time by going the short rout, but I knew that if I had chosen to do so the MM Factor would have had a train there waiting for me. For months I just went the long way around. Every once in a while I would test my theory and go the short way. Every time, a train would come as soon as I committed myself to going that way. This was way too predictable to be just coincidence.

These are just 3 examples of how the MM Factor spreads its special kind of joy to all. You can probably think of several experiences you have had that might just be explainable by the MM Factor Theory. Have you ever thought something happened that was just way too predictable to be coincidence? The MM Factor got you. Have you ever wondered how you could have made such a bad choice and how could you not have seen what would happen? The MM Factor was there.

Anyone faced with a choice that could save them time, money, or convenience will, logically, make that choice. The MM Factor loves this and stands always ready to jump in and ruin things. So the next time you have a choice to make, don’t worry and fret about what the right decision is. Just jump in and make the first choice the pops into your mind because you now know that whatever your choice, it will be the wrong one.



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