With the recent addition of a "Karma" button, I was reminded of a story from my college days. I am not sure whether I really believe in karma as a functional system that is truly in action, but this story is definitely an example that it's at least possible, and it's something I'm fond of reminiscing about 20+ years later
The year is 1985. The place is in a parking lot just up a hill from a football field where the University of South Carolina Marching Band practices in the late afternoon/early evening. Chris Sotello (trumpet) and I (tenor sax) are waiting for practice in our usual way. Listening to music, smoking illegal substances, and chatting about school. It's raining, and we figure practice will be canceled.
As we sat there, I noticed a gentleman in distress. He apparently had returned to his car to find a flat tire, and so there he was, in the rain, trying to fix it. I told Chris "Let's go help that guy." We did.
After helping this guy change his tire (which really only had the effect of everyone being soaked instead of just him) he handed us business cards. Turned out this guy was an Assistant Attorney General for the state which, I admit, at the time I was susrprised, because it WAS 1985, and it WAS South Carolina, and the guy WAS black. (Ok, he probably still is ) I'm not saying such a thing was impossible - no such racial thing intended, but the fact is, it wasn't usual. He expressed his appreciation that anyone would just help unsolicited, and we said "no problem." He said "If you ever have any problems, just give me a call."
Now that's sweet and all, but neither of us figured we'd ever have to bother the guy with any problems. Well, I've been wrong before.
So, the next year, I decide I will pledge Phi Mu Alpha which is a "professional" fraternity. In fact, Phi Mu Alpha stands for "Professional Musicians Association." Yes, we had parties, etc...but the point of the fraternity is to further music and to provide musical services, not to just be typical frat boys. For example, we would volunteer to set up for Orchestra concerts and such.
Anywho, the pledge cycle is nearing it's conclusion, and we are approaching the day when we'll be initiated into the fraternity. Sotello and I and several other close friends of ours who are also pledging are looking greatly forward to the day. The actual initiation takes place in the evening, and the details of it are secret, but it is the culmination of an entire day of fun, and the thing that happens during that day is not secret. It's a hunt of sorts.
Starting out early in the morning from the practice rooms near the Humanities building on campus, the hunt begins with a clue. We, as a group of pledges, must follow one clue to another until we reach the end. Each clue leads us to a different part of Columbia, SC and the surrounding suburbs. It is in pursuit of one of these clues that the wheels of karma began to turn.
We're about 6 clues into the hunt, and I am driving. The current clue points us to a small park in nearby West Columbia, and so I have just turned onto the street, and we are approaching said park which is on our left. And we run smack into something that our soon-to-be fraternity brothers had not counted on. There is a parade today in West Columbia. I have to get to the park on the left, but there are no side streets between me and the parade to legally turn at, so I do the only thing I can think of - I just pull a mid street U-turn. And of course, I'm immediately pulled over.
Now I don't mind being caught doing something illegal. Fair is fair, and the rules are the rules. But this cop is being a real dick. I try to explain that my option was to sit in the street, basically parked IN the street, or turn around somehow and go another way (there isn't another way to get to that park) and he isn't having any of it. I was respectful and calm and didn't argue. He *could* have given me a warning or he *could* have given me a ticket where the monetary punishment fit the crime. What he did instead was give me a ticket for 216$ That was quite a sum for a college student. And so, since I had already performed the U-turn and been given a "bill of sale" for the act, we turned into the park and continued our hunt. Clue found, we left for the next destination.
So how am I going to pay for this ticket? I don't have 216$ for a ticket Hey wait! The attorney general I helped! Long story short, I did a very rare thing for me. I called in a favor. The attorney general was happy to help. Ticket erased. Karma balanced.
That's pretty much the end of the story. Oh yeah, we had a great initiation with the inclusion of receiving our fraternity nicknames. Mine, of course, is "U-Turn."