Storm. From light to dark in a second. Thunder but no rain. I wonder if this is what it sounds like in Kyiv—except my only worry is if the power goes out and kills my a/c.  So no, people in Ukraine probably have a different occurring. Our questions might be similar, however: How long before it comes here?

There’s a story of a retired hockey goalie, sitting in his kitchen reading the paper, when the clothes dryer’s buzzer goes off, and in a heartbeat he’s on the linoleum with arms and legs outstretched. Some occurrings last a very long time. Which may be why some Army vets play loud music through headphones on the Fourth of July.

I used to think my own very long occurring had to do only with tech. Nah. It was more likely with any circumstance in which failure occurred as a probability.  It did get better over the years, thanks to my own stubbornness and some friends who demonstrated that the Dire Warnings I heard might not be quite as dire as they were made out to be.

In 1983 I went to China with Sidney Rittenberg. I was already immune to some dire warnings. My mother had told me to not eat the food. (Was she kidding? The thought of eating Chinese three times a day sounded like heaven.) It was a good thing she didn’t know we were flying out on KAL 007 the day after the Soviets shot down another 007 to Seoul. We were interviewed by the press in New York: Are you worried? No.

On the trip, Sidney told us about being thrown in jail by Mao for six years (the first time) and tripping on what he found out later was speed. He said a nursery story from childhood saved his sanity. The story (which I had never heard) was “Little Boots.”

Little Boots lived with his two older brothers on a farm. Parents were dead. They couldn’t use the barn, which they needed for livestock and grain storage, because of the demons. It was said that if one of them could stay all night in the barn with the demons that that would vanquish the demons forever, never to return. The oldest boy says, “Hah! I can do it. Don’t wait up,” and he goes into the barn at dusk. By 1am, he comes screaming out. The second oldest says, “Well, it’s up to me,” and he goes in the next night. By 2am he also comes screaming out.

Little Boots, the youngest, says, “Let me try,” and his brothers scoff at him: “Oh sure. The runt of the litter is going to do what we strong guys couldn’t. What a joke!” But Boots knew they were going to be in very bad shape if they couldn’t use the barn, so he went in. And, sure enough, about midnight, the demons came out: They were hideous, flying through the air, screaming and cackling. Boots said to himself: “Well, I’m right here, and I’m OK, and if things don’t get any worse, it will be all right.” And then it did get worse, with the demons raging, breathing foul odors, dripping green slime, moaning and threatening death and destruction. Once again, Boots said to himself, “I’m right here, I’m OK, and if it doesn’t get any worse, I can do this.” And it did get worse, all night long, with Boots repeating his mantra each time to himself. When dawn came, the demons disappeared forever, and Boots walked out of the barn.

I see now that what Sidney did (and what Boots did) was alter his occurring by repeating the mantra to himself. Instead of sticking with the first thing he thought of, which is I’m losing my mind, Sidney said, “I’m right here, right now I’m OK, and if things don’t get any worse, I can make it through this.” I don’t run into demons in my line of work, but I’ve found it works on less problematic areas as well.

This past Tuesday at 5pm I had Google and gmail, went to dinner, and came home to find that, without my touching anything, I had no personal Google account or gmail (meaning no access to my financial information, Amazon or other venders, etc.). And then a miracle occurred. (Nancy D might want to alert the Pope.) My usual MO is panic and screaming KEVIN!!! when a tech emergency occurs. This time I simply said, “Well, it was there when I left. Wonder what happened?” and then tried some things. And then tried some more things. Rebooted. And then tried even more things. The last reboot gave me at least a semblance of what I used to have, so I’m living with that.