Immutable laws of unintended consequences often turn best laid plans into oops moments

It seemed like a good idea at the time.” That's a phrase we've heard often enough, usually following a friend's admission of doing something that can be characterized charitably as gross stupidity. The end result usually includes, but is not limited to, bodily harm, embarrassment and monetary loss.

Often adult beverages are involved.

I read a report a few years back, for instance, about a man that tied dozens, maybe hundreds, of helium-filled balloons onto a lightweight lawn chair, hoping to get a short, scenic ride above his neighborhood. He packed an air rifle along to control descent, intending to shoot a balloon or two at a time to bring his craft to a gentle landing.

Things went awry. Store-bought helium balloons apparently are not all that stable and he may have tied on a few more than necessary to begin with. (He may have tied on a few more adult beverages than recommended as well.) The ascent was too fast, the descent was even faster and the unintended consequences of his “look I'm flying” moment were some broken bones and a few days in the hospital.

I must admit to having a few oops moments myself and without the excuse of high-test potables. Most of these did include what my friend Ted refers to as “out of boat experiences.” I hate to lose lures in tree branches so I usually ask Ted to guide the boat toward shore so I can recover my $3.50 investment.

Last time I tried this trick I stood on the bow of the boat, grabbed the offending limb with one hand, the tangled lure in the other and gave a yank. I almost fell backward into the boat, but regained my balance and pulled hard on the limb to right myself. The laws of physics being constant, however, pulling on the limb to straighten me up propelled the boat backward, leaving me with two options: hold onto the limb and lure and save $3.50 worth of glittery plastic, or turn loose and allow the line to break and the lure to fall into the lake and me into the boat.

As Ted fished me out of the water, he informed me that not only had I lost that $3.50 lure, but also my $100 rod and reel combo had bounced into the brink as well. He found it all incredibly amusing. I found it a prime example of how the laws of unintended consequences can never be ignored.

I don't have to be in a boat, either. I recently made a perfectly good cast with my fly rod, but some freakish gust of wind whisked my fly out of its intended path and into a branch about 30 feet from my intended target and about 5 feet out of reach.

Fortunately, I had a 7-foot fly rod with which I could reach the fly, jiggle it a bit and knock it loose. I balanced on a stable-looking river rock, about 3 feet from shore, reached into the foliage and jiggled the lure, an olive wooly bugger, worth about $1.75 if memory serves. It did not budge. I tried again. No movement. I whacked it with the tip of my $150 rod, which broke at about the same time I discovered that the stable-looking rock was not as firm a foundation as I had anticipated.

As Ted fished me out of the water, he informed me that I had neglected to zip up the pocket on my fishing vest and that my fly boxes, with dozens of $1.75 trout flies were even now floating down the river.

Unintended consequences; sometimes amusing, sometimes tragic. More later.

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