Bad luck, best stories


Xiaoxiao Hu/Daily Collegian

By Steven Gillard


Vacations don’t always go as planned.

In the summer of 2009, my family made the two-hour drive to Lake Compounce in Bristol, Conn., to spend the day at the amusement park. It was going to be a fun day, a break from work for my parents and a change from the monotonous and boring summer days for my siblings, cousins and me. Upon our arrival, the kids all got in line for the first ride of the day: a rollercoaster. We were about halfway through the line, and I was leaning over the railing, watching the rollercoaster twist and flip above me, when I heard a thump. I looked behind me to see my sister lying face down on the ground, passed out. My cousin screamed. My brother shook her. I stood there, shocked, not sure what to do. We hadn’t even been on one rollercoaster.

My parents and park security rushed into the line while various bystanders tried to revive my sister. A cold bottle of water to the face did the trick. Unfortunately, our day of fun was over before it had begun. My parents spent the rest of the day in the hospital with my sister, while the kids stayed at the park with my aunt, but going on rides while the doctors tried to uncover my sister’s ailment just felt wrong.

Fast forward a couple of years, and my family, along with my aunt’s family, were vacationing in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. We carpooled into the city on our second day, excited to take in some American history. Upon returning to the hotel in my aunt’s car, my little brother pointed out that the parking spot in which our van had been parked was empty. After searching the parking lot for our car, we determined that it must have been mistakenly towed. We checked with the hotel desk, but they had not towed any vehicles that day.  The van was stolen.

We couldn’t believe it. There were hundreds of cars in the parking lot. Nicer cars. Faster cars. Yet the thieves had decided to take our Dodge Caravan. We wondered what reason had compelled the criminals to select our car. Was it its proximity to the street? Was it the Massachusetts license plate, and the fact that the Red Sox were in town? How could people be so heartless?

Needless to say, our vacation was ruined. For me and my siblings, it was a rude awakening into the real world.  The thieves didn’t care that we were on vacation; they didn’t care that our family relied on the van and that we were now without a car. We drove home in a rental car, wondering if our family van would ever turn up and if the thieves would ever be caught.

It did turn up three months later, abandoned on the side of the road. It was totaled. The perpetrators were never found.

So what’s the point in telling these stories? Well, at the time, both of these events seemed disastrous. Our day trip to Lake Compounce, one of the few days of the summer my whole family spent together, was ruined. Our vacation to Philadelphia, which large amounts of planning and money had been put into, was ruined as well. Not to mention, it cost my family a car.

During both of these events, it would have been helpful to ask myself a question: Will this matter 10 years from now? Will this affect the rest of my life?

The answer was no.

On both of those summer days I learned a valuable lesson: life doesn’t always go as planned. Things go wrong. Bad things happen. The only things worth worrying about, however, are the events that will actually matter in the long run. My sister, after two more subsequent public faints, began taking daily supplements of iron, which stopped the spells, and, although it was a temporary financial burden, we bought a new van and carried on with our lives.

In retrospect, neither event was nearly as bad as it had initially seemed. I wouldn’t say I’m glad they happened, but I wouldn’t say that their effects were devastating, either. Sometimes, the worst cases of luck end up being the best stories. After all, how many people can say their sister fainted in the middle of an amusement park, or that their unremarkable, sky-blue minivan was stolen out of a hotel parking lot?

Not many.

Steven Gillard is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]