Irony, humanity’s dearest friend

While growing up, I’ve always wondered who this Murphy fellow was. I kept hearing about Murphy’s law, but I’ve never bothered to look into it. My irony bible was a large panel posted in my favorite Irish pub, with the title “Murphy’s Drinking Laws”, so you might notice when it was that I’ve actually started to understand the true perversity of the Universe.

They say the name comes from Ed Murphy, a development engineer from Wright Field Aircraft Lab, who felt the need to express his opinion about a technician’s incompetence regarding a malfunctioning strap transducer: “If there is any way to do it wrong, he will.” – well, at least that’s what George E. Nichols said in Arthur Bloch’s book, “Murphy’s Law and Other Reasons Why Things Go Wrong”, published in 1977. This is as close as anyone got to theorizing irony, through Murphy’s Law.

Seeing as I now sound smart enough to continue my rant about irony (thank you, Wikipedia), I can only say that if anyone was ever brave enough to compile an encyclopedia of cases where irony has played its part better than Jack Nicholson played Jack Torrance in “The Shining”, I’d probably earn a couple of pages in it, at least.

As much as we hate to admit it, anything that can go wrong is most likely to actually go wrong.

  “And this is just an hors d’oeuvres from life’s gigantic plate of irony.”

It’s not a reason to panic, though. Resigning ourselves with the potentially disastrous outcome is a much healthier way to cope with it, if it comes to pass. Like the guy in Alanis Morissette’s song: “And as the plane crashed down, he thought <<Well isn’t this nice…>>”. Humanity has its rich history of tasting irony’s bitter slaps on the face and it will continue to experience it because, well, we’re helpless before it.

Let’s go back to April 14th 1912. Yes, you know where I’m going with this. The largest ship of its time and its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. They called it “Unsinkable” (which brings me to this little ad that I just had to bring up, because I’m nasty), yet it went down with the grace of an elephant tiptoeing through a porcelain factory. One of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century is also a perfect illustration of irony, all because of an oversized icicle. But the whole “unsinkable ship sank on its first voyage” wasn’t the entire plate of “Oh yes it happened!”. It turns out that 14 years before the Titanic took its nose dive, Morgan Robertson published a novel called “Futility”, featuring a large-ass boat called “The Titan” that sank on the 15th of April. It featured three propellers, 3000 passengers, a small amount of lifeboats and the starboard collision with an iceberg while on its voyage from New York to England. The Titanic featured three propellers, around 2200 passengers, the same small amount of lifeboats and the starboard collision with an iceberg while on its voyage from England to New York.

  “Don’t worry, babe, there’s no way we’ll be THAT unfortunate! It was just a book!”

We can also go way back when the Romans practically ruled the world and say hello to Marcus Licinius Crassus, who got his own taste of irony. He was a renowned general with a shitload of money and gold, just enough to fund armies and invasions. His luck ran out and the Parthians defeated him. You’re probably wondering where this is going. Well, the Parthians knew their way around building and preserving empires, so when this guy decided to plunder their lands, they said “Hell, no!” and not only did they bring his armies down, they executed Crassus as punishment for his greed. They poured molten gold down his throat.

  “Judging by the look on his face, I think he saw it coming.”

I’m pretty sure that millions of people have perished and will continue to do so under irony’s tender touch. Some of the most famous deaths include Hans Steininger, the guy with the longest beard in the world, who got caught in a fire, tripped on his beard, broke his neck and died; Bobby Leach kicked some serious ass as a famous daredevil, having managed to even navigate the Niagara Falls, but then he slipped on a banana peel, broke his leg and later died of gangrene; let’s not forget Franz Reichelt, the lunatic who was convinced that his tailored “pre-Batman” costume would help him fly off the Eiffel Tower, yet the cameras only managed to record him plunging towards his own death; Marie Curie won a Nobel Prize for her theory on radioactivity but she also won a deadly case of aplastic anemia that proved irony right, once again. I could go on forever but I’m pretty sure I’ve brought you down enough.

 “Or maybe not.”

Most of you know who Steve Irwin was. I’m also pretty sure that most of you, like me, grew up watching him on Animal Planet as he wrestled with crocodiles while laughing in the camera and telling us not to try this at home. Our most dangerous approach to his kind of action were probably the backyard lizards that left us their tails as souvenirs, so we loved Steve Irwin and some of us dreamed of growing up to be just like him. I remember my dad telling me that this guy was nuts and that one day, one of those crocs would be the end of him. I would like to take this moment and say “In your face, dad!”. Most of us probably thought the same thing, that a crocodile would be the end of Steve Irwin, while some of us secretly hoped that he’d live to be 80 going on 100. Until that blasted stingray decided to call it a night and end him. A stingray. Not a brown snake (which is just one of the many poisonous things that one can find in Steve’s homeland), not an alligator or angry crocodile, but a stingray.

  “Though they shouldn’t be underestimated, stingrays rarely attack. Otherwise this photo would be slightly different.”

For as long as we can remember, man has laughed in the face of irony and got bitchslapped every time. Haven’t you noticed that whenever you’re late, the red light tends to be all “in-your-face”? Or that it starts raining only after you take your car out all sparkly and shiny from the car wash? Or how a truck drives through a puddle and turns you into a Dalmatian only when you put on those cool white clothes for the interview of your life?

Well, I’ve had my own share of ironic moments. My favorite part is when I spend months looking for a job, and when I finally find one (that is probably not exactly what I wanted but, hey, it’s better than nothing) contracts start pouring in like I’m the most precious asset on this side of the globe. Every time that I’ve said “This time, it will be better!” it was always the same. Or worse. We’re all experiencing the bittersweet twists of irony. It’s by our side 24/7, just waiting for one of us to defy it, to say “Heck, what can go wrong?”.

Don’t ever ask that. Don’t ever think that nothing can go wrong but also don’t ever let yourself be brought down by the idea that anything can go wrong. We are not invincible and every single action that we perform is recorded with an opposite outcome in irony’s memory, just waiting to be used against us whenever we wish to defy it.

It’s not like I’m being a pessimist here. I don’t believe in the “If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong” theory. I do, however, believe that if anything can go wrong, well, it might just go wrong. It might not make much sense to you, but I’m just trying to be an optimist without pissing irony off, so ambiguous statements are required. It might be spying on us this right now. Shhhh.

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