(The Last)There Are No Little Things 12: Pity Pass in 18.02

I sat across from the 18.02 teaching assistant who was grading the quiz that would determine whether I passed the required second-term calculus class and was allowed to graduate from MIT. She recognized my name from The Tech and we talked about Charlton Heston. Why did she pass me? The grade on the quiz was a judgment call. In an instant decision, she gave me a pity pass that granted me my degree and my career.

The 12 moments presented here were the most obvious. I am sure there are other small moments which, upon reflection, were big moments. I will toss them into this column if/when I think of them.

My long-time friend Robert Malchman contends that had these moments not happened, something else would have happened. He calls it the “Next Bus Theory.” While I grant him that, the point of this series was that small decisions produce big results. Other decisions and other results were possible, but these were the tiny decisions I (or others) made and the GIGANTIC results they produced.

There Are No Little Things 11: Meeting Edwin

Cathy was taking an evening course in political science which she said was amazing. I didn’t like walking across the Harvard Bridge to get back to MIT after I’d made it home for dinner. Snap decision: go to the class. I met Edwin Diamond that night; he went on to be my mentor and friend. He changed my life. Breaking my rule about going back seemed like a little thing at the time.

There Are No Little Things 10: Car Crash

I don’t know if this incident really belongs in this feature; I have no idea who or what made the “decision” that, when I blacked out because of ventricular fibrillation while driving south at 60 MPH on I680 in Walnut Creek, I swerved right (into the guardrail) rather than left (into oncoming traffic). Had I gone left, I’d have died and taken others with me. Instead, I walked away from the crash. Why? I don’t know. Since God  is omniscient, he didn’t really have to “think” about which way I went (not to mention that God does not much with details). Probably just randomness.

There Are No Little Things 9: Newspaper Loses TV Station

The FCC took WHDH away from the Boston Herald-Traveler. The loss of the station killed the newspaper. I could not have imagined a decision less meaningful to me, yet it started a chain reaction which undid one engagement and launched another. One result: WBZ got the Red Sox, which caused them to hire staff, including me. Working there helped torpedo my first engagement. Charlie Ball took up teaching journalism at Simmons College after losing his Herald job; one of his students would eventually meet me through her newspaper, then end up as the second woman to whom I was engaged.

There Are No Little Things 8: The Tasting

My decision to join the World Affairs Council that day during my lunch break was a trivial one. The office was across the street and the membership was cheap. I knew I needed to get out and meet people; turns out the WAC had a wine tasting that night, which fit perfectly into my empty social calendar. I introduced myself to the three tallest women in the room, and one of them chose to date me. The rest, as they say, is history.

There Are No Little Things: Explanation

There Are No Little Things 7: Weekend Overtime at KGW

I didn’t have any social life that summer, so when a minister came into KGW to tape sermons for television syndication, I signed up for the weekend double time. A half-century later that income put me over a Social Security minimum income for 1971, which has increased my social security check by 10% every month since. I can’t say I knew that would be the consequence.

There Are No Little Things: Explanation

There Are No Little Things 6: Not Electrocuting Myself

Sometimes the little things are decisions not made. I made the stupid decision to tap a live electrical wire on a screw on the hot water heater to see what happened. It sparked. Duh. I did NOT make the decision to stand in the pool of water beneath it and die.

A new quote has been added to the Little Things explanation. The quote is:

“Enjoy the little things. For one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”
―Robert Brault

There Are No Little Things: Explanation

There Are No Little Things 5: The Non-Job at the SF Examiner

“Come on down, you’ll be my next hire,” David Dietz of the SF Examiner told me when I called from my desk at the Oregon Journal. His decision to hire someone else (dictated by management) probably took him about 30 seconds (who disobeys a direct order?). Thank God I didn’t have to commute into SF every day, and miss my daughters’ childhoods.

There Are No Little Things: Explanation

There Are No Little Things: 4 UPI Broadcast Style Guide

If Norm Sandler gave 10 seconds thought to the UPI Broadcast Style Guide before he tossed it into  our shared closet, I’d be surprised. But since it was there, I could read it on the train into Boston for my first shift at UPI. For me, broadcast style seemed trivial; so I filed eight hours of flawless New England Radio Wire copy, and began one of my most interesting journalism jobs.

There Are No Little Things: Explanation