The Butterfly Effect (No Ashton Kutcher)
Anyone with more than a passing familiarity with me knows that I have an extensive history of making decisions ranging anywhere from questionable to downright insane. Usually, I am fully cognizant of the consequences of these decisions, so when my wrist shatters or I find myself in a month-long depressive funk due to the ramifications of my choices, I am not so much awed by the after-effects as I am by the lunacy that allowed them to come to pass in the first place. The water bottles, though…
See, oftentimes the most seemingly innocuous decisions, mere ripples in the ocean of choices we all make every day, end up creating a veritable tsunami of long-term effects when analyzed in hindsight. Nowhere has this been clearer to me than when I began pondering the ramifications of one of the most mundane decisions a person can make: I decided one afternoon to purchase a twelve-pack of bottled water at Safeway. On the surface, it seems almost impossible for the event to have any life-long significance. I mean, it wasn’t like I was signing the Magna Carta. But much like when a person that you think must be a man in drag turns out to just be a girl who strongly resembles a trannie, appearances can be deceiving.
So anyway, I bought this twelve pack of bottled water. I was living with my parents at the time, and working my first post-college job at Borders. Emboldened by my extravagant working wage of $8 an hour, I wanted to splurge on the finest in aquatic refreshment, so I took the proverbial trip to Crystal Geyser. When I got home, I took the water up with me to my room. I had a mini-fridge left over from my college days, and truthfully, home was not my favorite place in the world, so I was more than happy to keep some water in the room to spare me from making so many trips into the haze of misery that so frequently permeated the downstairs area. Besides, my mother was literally drinking 10+ bottles of water a day at that point. If I left these downstairs, I might never even get one. The decision to take the water bottles up to my room clearly seemed the best option, and I did so without a second thought.
Imagine my surprise when, later that evening, I was asked by my father why I took the water bottles upstairs with me. Flummoxed by the question, I tried to answer as best I could while circumventing any mention of the whole “I hate being here and want to minimize my time downstairs” thing, so I replied with something along the lines of, “I knew if I left them downstairs you guys would just drink them all before I got any.” Now, I’ll grant that this response doesn’t reflect the most charitable mindset, but it seemed the most reasonable, non-inflammatory option I could conceive on the fly. I suppose I should have considered the fact that the strange question was even asked in the first place and just been apologetic from the get-go, but hindsight is 20/20 and all that. Anyway…
My father sprang upon my response like a jackal upon a veal cutlet, verbally disemboweling me for being an awful human being. He even went so far as to say that my reasoning behind taking the water bottles up to my room was, “the most selfish thing he’d ever heard,” which frankly seems a bit hyperbolic. An argument ensued and before I knew it, I was thrown out of the house. I had to be out within a week, he said. Perhaps owing to my lack of Boy Scouts training, I was unprepared for this. But ready or not, I was about to be on the streets, so I had to get my shit together, and fast.
First thing was first: I was going to have to make more money. I had some savings, but if I was going to have to start swinging actual real world rent, utilities, etc., I was going to need a bit more financial security than Borders was willing to offer me. Fortunately, my girlfriend at the time was kind enough to help me out in my time of need (and, if we’re being honest, intense panic), scouring Craigslist for office jobs that would offer me a substantial boost in hours, pay, benefits…you name it. The first interview I got was with Coldwell Banker in Cupertino, and despite my lack of experience in any kind of administrative capacity, I apparently nailed the interview, beating out dozens of candidates by sheer force of awesome. I had never considered working in real estate before, but I needed a semi-respectable job badly and this one fit the bill. Plus, it’s not like real estate was going to be my career or anything, right?
Anyway, my main point here is that without the water bottle incident forcing me out of my parent’s house, I had no real sense of urgency to leave. Oh, sure, I wanted out, but I tend to be pretty careful with my finances and enjoyed certain aspects of my job at Borders. I likely would have waited weeks or even months before actively seeking a better job, by which time the window for the Coldwell Banker job would have long passed. Instead, I ended up in a job wherein my manager would be in some way responsible for every job I’ve gotten until this point. Even when I moved to Los Angeles in the hopes of finally making something of myself (a dream which yet goes unfulfilled), upon my broke, reluctant return to the Bay Area, a chance encounter with my manager from Coldwell Banker got me the job that led directly to where I am now. He ended up starting a small business and nowadays I work with him as the sole two employees of his company. All of this traces directly back to that evening when I was thrown out of my parent’s house, because I decided to keep some bottled water for myself.
I apologize if this reads as an overly indulgent diary entry. My intention here is not to bore you with the minutiae of my day-to-day life (and bore you it would, I assure you), but rather to encourage you to reflect upon the little moments in life, the seemingly insignificant, utterly forgettable events that, in retrospect, completely alter the course of your life. Truthfully, it’s a bit chilling to think how different my life would be had I not purchased a case of bottled water on that spring afternoon. I suppose I should be thankful that drinking the bottled water didn’t end up giving me cancer like it supposedly did to Sheryl Crow…at least I hope it didn’t. These malignant growths can take a while to become apparent. But that’s really for another blog.
Purchasing a copy of Joey Marsilio's novel Henry Garrison: St. Dante's Savior can start a chain reaction that prevents future calamity, such as Joey starving to death! Pick it up, and save the future!