June 13th, 2008

coyote laughs

Understanding Athelind's Argot: Coyote Loves Me!

Since it's Friday the 13th, it seems an appropriate time to explain a phrase that I use with great frequency:

"Coyote Loves Me."

I often utter it in situations where other folks might invoke "Murphy's Law" or "Finagle's Law", which leads many people to assume that it's entirely about, well, bad luck.

That's not it at all -- or not the important part.

It's a philosophy -- and one that requires a backstory.

Though I didn't coin the phrase until many years after this incident, the definition comes from my mother: "For all the bad luck we have, we have a lot of good luck."

She said this around 1980 or so, after my stepdad -- who had been working long hours with a long commute -- fell asleep driving home on the twisting, turning country road in the backwoods of Northern San Diego County. He veered out of his lane, and had a head-on collision with another vehicle -- kind of.

The glancing impact peeled all the bodywork off the driver's side of his little blue Toyota -- and that's it. The Toy was still drivable after the panels and windows were replaced.

Nobody in either car was injured at all -- except for little cubes of safety glass in Papa's hair.

His tight, curly black man's hair.

So... a potentially fatal tragedy turned into a comically annoying nuisance.

Coyote, you see, loves us.

God is a prankster with a slapstick sense of humor, desperately trying to get a laugh... and the harder it is to get you to laugh, the harder he tries.

If you see the joke, and laugh... well, he might not go easy on you, exactly, but he might not try so hard to get a reaction.

And all the random, wonderful, serendipitous good things that happen? Those are part of the joke, too.

(For the record, my relationship with Coyote made the transition from "catch phrase" to "something akin to religious faith" after the 2004 "re"-election of George Dubya Bush.)

For further reading:
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein ("Man is the animal who laughs... we laugh because it hurts, because it's the only way to make it stop hurting.")
  • Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons ("Hey... I never said it was a good joke! I'm just playin' along with the gag...")