Pluses and Minuses

What does A+B -C give?
There are pluses and minuses. 

That is my general response when people ask me how my day is going, especially at work. There I try to fix more than I break during the course of the day, and if toward the end of the day I feel I have accomplished that, I call it a win and go home.   Some days I get shut down at the plate in the first inning, and I am tempted to just quit while I am behind and go home. Even still, I try to stay in the game and put points on the board.  For example, Wednesday October 28th had an inauspicious beginning, which is euphemistic for a crappy start, both literally and figuratively.

On my bike ride to work, I came around a hairpin turn only discover another cyclist taking more than his half out of the middle coming at me.  In attempting a hard right to avoid collision, the sudden turn caused my back wheel to slide out and I went down. Adding insult to injury, was landing in way too close in proximity to a smear of animal excrement on the trail, a double minus, a crappy beginning. 

After pausing to reconnoiter both physical disposition and that of my vehicle, while trying not to gag on the smell of animal excrement, I assessed that I was able to continue.  A plus was that after years of wrestling and cycling I had reflexively executed a proper fall on the way down landing flat on my forearm and rolling to my shoulder.  Road rash and bruising were of minor consequence.  Another plus was my bike being intact, at least I thought.

I managed to get another mile up the road before my derailleur arm disintegrated leaving my chain dangling limp end ineffectual.  That was a negative.  However, a plus was remembering how, at eleven years of age on my Boy Scout fifty mile bike hike after breaking a chain coming out of White Sands New Mexico, I stood on one pedal and scootered the last few miles home.  So, I scooted the last mile to the office where I encountered another plus.  A couple of weeks before, someone had told me about a shower in our building, and in anticipation of the day when I would be in a rush unable to ride that extra mile to Anteater Recreation Complex (ARC), I had stowed tea tree scented body wash in my desk drawer. 

Another plus was that I had a resource to get home, my son Elliot.   I am very proud of my son obtaining two professional licenses, his US Coast Guard coastal navigation license which has provided lucrative employment as a boat captain while he worked on his second professional license as a FAA certified aircraft maintenance professional (AMP).  However, on this particular day, I was pleased that he had the standard California driver’s license, and he would be more than happy to pick me up from work.  There is character to be recognized in his willingness to do so, as he had been up since 0330 hours, because his recently acquired AMP apprenticeship with FedEx requires him to be at LAX at 0500. 

Serendipitously, he was planning an after-work errand to deliver some fish to a friend in Tustin, so a stop at my office was along his general trajectory.  Nonetheless, I sought to push for one more plus in my day, so I suggested, given we are already in Tustin, we drop by Asha’s place to pick up some apple butter she had made from the harvest of her seasonal apple picking adventure.  

Upon arriving home, I decided to reward Elliot by whipping up a frittata seasoned with “the stuff”, my jalapeño cilantro paste whipped into the eggs, along with some of the green onions growing outside and other vegetables from within the refrigerator.  At the end of the day, I enjoyed my portion of the frittata along with toast smeared with apple butter; it was a good batch with an edge of ginger up front and fresh pomegranate juice in the mix to act as a conduit between the spice and the fruit.   Most importantly, I added up more pluses than minuses at the end of the day and called it a win.

In dealing with the aftermath of my bike accident, I also considered the pluses and the minuses of repairing or replacing my bike.  The cost of fueling my body was still less than fueling my car and paying for parking on campus, so I still wanted to bike to work.  I considered that the State of California had recently sent me 350 dollars to offset fuel cost, and it would be more pleasurable spend that on food than gasoline, given that a couple of Trader Joes carrot cake muffins can fully fuel my ride to work.   Also, in the plus category was that my nephew Hartmut had gifted me with a $250 REI certificate recently.  Those two pluses had me close to a new bike.

Then what started out as a minus became a plus.  I got a fake text, putatively from the Employment Development Department (EDD) of California, saying they were sending me $4,000 and I just needed to reactivate my bank card.  Being skeptical, I went to Bank of America to test my EDD bank card.  It had indeed been deactivated.  However, I remained skeptical and went to the website on the back of the bank card instead of the one in the text.  The scammers had come so close with their web site copy. I would have given them a B+ for effort to defraud, but never my personal information.  I logged into the true site and discovered 57 dollars I did not know about just waiting for me to transfer to my bank.  It wasn’t much but $57 here and $57 there, and after a while it adds up to real money.  It turned out that combined with other gifts, added up to a new bike. 

In my life I see more pluses than minuses, but I cannot say the same about this US habit of switching our clocks twice a year for putative “daylight savings”; pretty much the minuses of health consequences and accidents outweigh the benefits.  I used to make it a plus by not telling my children, so that they would be ready for church early and we used the extra hour to stop off for breakfast.  However, this year Elliot was more interested in sleep than pancakes, so I used my extra hour to take a bike ride on my new bike at 0530, formerly known as 0630.  The bike ride was an energetic celebration and expression of thankfulness.  However, when I add up all the pluses and minuses in this story, I place the most value on the people I have in my life friends and my family, especially my progeny and my nephew, who are not only responsible adults, but have learned to be thankful and give back at every opportunity. 

Bike trail leading into Uppper Newport Back Bay


  • Being endowed with optimism in the face of adversity is a blessing. I agree, supported by arithmetic, that when the pluses outweigh the minuses, a win was achieved. So, I appreciate the outcomes of the events you experienced. You mentioned “church.” My excuse to somewhat digress.I propose that good a force? Also, I propose that evil is a force. For those that agree, is one force greater than the other? Plus/minus; positive/negative; yin/yang, ecetera.

  • Its never good when anything is rendered “limp and ineffectual” or when you slide thru offal, but you produced the proverbial lemonade
    from lemons—bravo! The offal became less awful. Like the Beatles’ Jude, you took a sad song and made it better. BRAVO!
    Reminds me of the famous story of the young man in olden times who was commanded to go to war (bad) but then while riding horse broke his leg ( good, since no war requirement) but bad since couldnt court his love, etc etc)
    Finally, total agreement on DST—a scheme developed by oil lamp merchants in the 18th Century.
    It’s demise has been surmised by Congress, but as most common sense ideas, could not be agreed upon


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