My mother told me once that there are three kinds of people in the world: "Shlemils" -- those who spill soup; "Shlimazels" -- those who have soup spilled on them; and "Shlemil-Shlemazels" -- those who spill soup on themselves.
When I was a young married man reflecting on my life to that point, I came to realize that I'm all three.
Whether it was the time, as a toddler, I broke the fall from the top of the basement stairs with my head; or the two weeks in sixth grade I mistook conditioner for shampoo and oozed enough grease to lube a semi-truck; or the joyride I took as a teenager in a company van on the last day of work for the summer that ended in a rollover; or the San Francisco cable car ride on which I bit the hand of an Asian tourist, thinking it belonged to my girlfriend -- there have been events enough to convince me that a gray cloud hovers over me.
In short, I'm a bumbler. A misfortune magnet.
Nonetheless, I have always done pretty well for myself. And at the time of epiphany, I had managed to find a lovely, intelligent wife, graduate college with honors, land a decent-paying, white-collar job, and buy a home in Southern California. It occurred to me that if I could succeed, in spite my missteps, then anyone could.
So in 1993, I started a newsletter and dubbed it the Hard Luck Gazette, a means of uniting Shlemils, Shlemazels and Shlemil-Shlemazels of the world as well as encouraging otherwise circumspect folks to share their foibles. Its mission: to prove that any hapless clod could muddle through life.
The Gazette was never meant to ridicule or disparage people. Rather, it was a sort of a self-deprecation club and a celebration of our humanity -- the fact that all of us, if otherwise intelligent, have occasion to bumble or to be bumbled upon. It presented hilarious brief accounts of people from all walks of life: doctors, teachers, cops, ministers, construction workers, nurses, professors, executives, students, housewives, pizza delivery guys, secretaries and real estate agents. You name it. They were one with the fact that none of us is immune to minor calamities, so why not laugh about them instead of hide them?