Does Expecting the Worst Make it Less Likely to Happen?

Does expecting, or even preparing, for the worst make it less likely to happen?

An illogical question indeed, but nonetheless, it sometimes seems that the terrible snow storms we expect never actually happen, and the ones that we underestimate can be devastating.

Of course, after suffering the effects of last week’s nor’easter, few in New Hope, Solebury Township or Lambertville are taking the warnings over tonight’s impending snowfall lightly.

At New Hope’s Giant supermarket, a relatively quiet morning started seeming decidedly busier by 9 a.m. Aisles became noticeably more crowded, and the milk case was beginning to look a tad sparse.

And folks started stopping by the local Lukoil gas station with fuel cans in hand last evening, according to a cashier there.

Giant supermarket in New Hope Tuesday morning.

The latest snowfall projections call for as little as six inches just south of New Hope, and as much as 12 inches to the north. Bucks County on Tuesday morning officially issued a winter storm warning effective Tuesday 7 p.m. until Thursday at 3 a.m., and Solebury declared a snow emergency beginning at noon.

While expected wind gusts of 30 mph are more manageable than those of last week’s storm, the snow this time around is anticipated to be wet and heavy, again potentially leading to downed trees, blocked roads, and power outages.

Some area residents have only just had their electrical power restored; others are still waiting.

“I’m just glad that I got power and heat back before the next big storm – I don’t know how many days my job would have covered me at the Lambertville Station – but the mini vacation was delightful,” said Liz Battaglia of Lambertville. “In light of the pending storm, I’ll make sure to fill the bathtub this time, and also empty the fridge. I lost about $150 in frozen and fresh foods, plus some I had stored for New Hope folks who lost power first”

Electric generators were still humming along Tuesday in the Hilltop section of New Hope’s Village 2 community.

By noon Tuesday, New Hope-Solebury School District was already predicting a day off for students and staff Wednesday, although an official determination was to be issued at 9 p.m.

Which still leaves us with the question “does expecting or even preparing for the worst outcome somehow make it less likely to occur?” — an admittedly supercilious extrapolation of Murphy’s Law?” That famous maxim states, “If anything can go wrong, it will.”

Can we add “the likelihood of something going wrong is inversely proportionate to the degree to which is anticipated”?

The following are some additional Murphy’s Laws and corollaries — feel free to add your own.

  • If anything can go wrong, it will do so at the most inopportune time.
  • If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong.
  • If anything just cannot go wrong, it will anyway
  • If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which something can go wrong, and circumvent these, then a fifth way, unprepared for, will promptly develop.
  • If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
  • Everything goes wrong all at once.
  • Everything takes longer than you think.
  • Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.
  • The chance of the bread falling with the buttered side down is directly proportional to the cost of the carpet.
  • A falling object will always land where it can do the most damage.
  • If you can’t remember, the Claymore is pointed toward you.
  • Radios will fail as soon as you need fire support.
  • In nature, nothing is ever right. Therefore, if everything is going right … something is wrong.
  • Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.


About the author

Charlie Sahner

“Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy." - Einstein

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