Commentary: Zona Bad Luck

By Louis A. Zona

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – This was no time to get hit with a dose of the dreaded affliction known as diarrhea. Of all things, why did our contractor, working on the building, have to hit a sewer line coming into the Butler Institute of American Art on a day when my breakfast consisted of fruit?

It must be true that our beloved museum must have been constructed on an ancient Indian burial site. What else could it possibly be?

How else would you explain two visitors tumbling on the icy steps at the same time or computers crashing on the very day that I felt like throwing my Dell computer out the window? I should not blame all of this on a streak of bad luck generated by such things as century-old curses.

No, I should blame such unexplainable misfirings on what my late father used to refer to as “The Zona Bad Luck.” Dad even claimed that his favorite football and baseball teams lost only because he rooted for them.

I once told him that if he would root against his beloved Pittsburgh Pirates, they might easily end up in the World Series. He fully agreed. I also told him that he should not have watched the games with his Pirate hat on – the baseball gods would surely have seen through it and he would undoubtedly cause another loss for the team.

But I’m not letting the technology gods off of the hook. Can it be that every time that I sit down in front of my computer I lose three paragraphs from whatever I was writing?

Where did it go?

I always end with “Save” yet mystery prevails. The paragraphs have vanished. Yep, an hour’s worth of work has gone to that big dumpster in the sky.

I often recall the Pakistani character from Seinfeld, Babu. He assumed that Jerry had misguided him in a business venture to create a restaurant that serves Pakistani food. Virtually no one visited the restaurant.

Babu shouts, “Where are the people? Do you see any people? I don’t see any people!”

Waving his very long finger, Babu blames Jerry for the failure. He accuses Jerry of being a bad man, a very bad man!

The man who sold me my laptop was obviously a bad man, a very bad man, since it never seemed to work properly. Note that I’m wagging my finger at the online salesman as I cry out that he is obviously bad.

I did not tell the salesman about the Zona Bad Luck. That surely would have voided the warranty.

Every time that I get into my car and reach for the gearshift, I wish I had my 1953 Chevy. Now that was a car and one that somehow was unaffected by the Zona Bad Luck because that car just went on and on with no problems.

It had belonged to my brother-in-law, Albert, who had put 150,000 miles on it. I put 125,000 more miles on that Bel Air that got me through college and my first job. It was impervious to the dreaded Zona bad luck.

Getting back to my current gearshift, an evil entity created the design. Once again, I think back to my ’53 Chevy that had a shifter that was a dream to use. My current one is a nightmare.

It took me maybe three months to figure out how to use the darn thing. In talking to other automobile owners who have to deal with the new shifter, I see that here is a case where the Zona Bad Luck had little or nothing to do with the issue of the crazy shifter.

But the Zona Bad Luck runs rampant in my television cable box. The darned thing usually takes a fit when I’m watching a favorite sporting event or a rerun of “Gunsmoke” or “The Andy Griffith Show.” If it has to happen, why not mess up the box when “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette” airs?

I am reminded of the famous NFL championship game between the Raiders and the Jets that was heading for a dramatic ending when “Heidi” suddenly appeared on the screen.

Everybody who was alive back then remembers the furor that arose when the network dropped the football game only to replace it with the children’s film “Heidi.” When my beer-drinking neighbor called our house to see if we still had the game on, I never heard so many swear words in a row when we told him that we were watching “Heidi.”

This led to the NFL creating “The Heidi Rule” (I’m not kidding) which required that the network must broadcast each game to its conclusion.

Last week my cable box bit the dust. Gone were all 150 stations with the exception of some basic programs. It caused me to think back to the early days of TV when the only programming we received via rooftop antennas was The Dumont Television Network.

One of the early programs was “Life Is Worth Living,” which featured a Catholic bishop, Fulton J. Sheen. He appeared each week before a blackboard, teaching us about virtues and ways to save our souls. So Americans plunked down in front of their 10-inch picture tubes (usually with a fair amount of “snow”) and watched and listened to Bishop Sheen.

In many ways, those were innocent days with technology that also was quite innocent. Who would have thought back then that a digital world would one day open up to give us 150 stations including reruns of Bishop Sheen’s teachings and crystal-clear episodes of James Arness in “Gunsmoke,” minus the snow?

Since my father constantly fought the terrible annoyance of a blurry TV image, I am sure that he blamed it on the Zona Bad Luck. If Dad were alive, he would be amazed by what has happened to television in our digital age.

The technology curse just may have subsided. And Dad, don’t worry about your Pirates falling victim to the family scourge of bad luck. Today, if broadcasting “Heidi” would ruin your day of sports on television, simply find it beaming from a satellite.

Yep, you read it right: no more Zona Bad Luck.