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« What do you call it, accident or negligence? | Main | Was it worth it? »


I first arrived in the United States in January 1979; I flew into New York’s Kennedy Airport, and was picked up by my new employers, Vic and Mike Fraysee, owners of Paris Sport.

From there it was probably and hour’s drive to Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, about seven miles from New York City on the other side of the Hudson River. The frameshop where I worked was at the back of a bike store that the Fraysee’s owned.

The terms of my initial visa that I had when I entered the US, was that I would return to England before the end of the first year. I could then renew my visa and come back again.

I planned to return to the UK for the Christmas Holidays 1979, that gave me almost a year to work and save for the trip. By the fall of that year, it was clear money was going to be tight and I needed to find some extra cash to meet expenses.

On the corner of the same block where the frameshop was, there happened to be a large warehouse type building. It was home to a company that packaged Christmas wrapping paper. They were hiring seasonal part time workers for an evening shift.

And so it was, I started moonlighting. When I finished my day job building frames, I would work 6 to 10 in the Christmas wrapping paper plant.

It was probably around this time of year, early November, as I took my one-mile morning walk to work, I rounded the corner off Main Street, Ridgefield Park, to a scene of utter devastation.

The Christmas paper business had burned to the ground in a fire during the night. Only the four walls were standing, the roof was gone; firefighters were cleaning up. All that was left of the place where I had worked the previous evening was a blackened, smoldering pile of rubble.

As I walked slowly past on the opposite side of the street, the cold realization was sinking in, that I no longer had a part time job, no extra income, and possibly no Christmas trip to England.

However, within two weeks, the owners of the business had savaged and repaired some of the machinery, and had started up again in another building close by.

With only a few short weeks left before Christmas, they were now desperate to replace their lost stock, plus make up for two weeks lost production. I not only got my job back, I was now working an 8 hour shift, from 6pm. to 2am.

There was a feeling amongst the workers, of wanting to help the owners succeed; they had not given up, we were not giving up.

I was also working two shifts on the weekends; the result was I probably made more money than if there had not been a fire. I made the trip to England with cash to spare.

I thought of this incident just yesterday when I wrote a quote in the form of a question,

“How boring would life be without uncertainty?”


We need certainty in our lives to feel secure; we need to be reasonably certain that we will wake up in the morning, and that our loved ones will still be there. That our job will be there and the building not burned to the ground as I found.

Then every so often, life throws us a curve, something unexpected. Without the unexpected, life would be boring. Curved roads are more interesting than straight roads; we don’t know what is round that next bend.

Within uncertainty, there is adventure, excitement. I have always found throughout my life whenever a relationship has turned sour, or I have lost a job; when I look back years later, it was for the good.

I’ve had many disappointments, but very few regrets.

Reader Comments (6)

I have been lurking here for a few months, since taking up cycling at 54. I would ask another question, one that is related to yours. What would be the point of life if it was forever? Would we value anything if it was forever?

November 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPLS

A very good point. If life on earth was forever we would have little incentive to get things done.

Of course religion tells us life after death is eternal. However, as I see it, because no one has ever come back from the dead to tell us for sure, this is the ulimate "Uncertainty" we all face.

One thing I know is, my feeling of "Self" has always been the same through childhood,adolescents, adulthood and into old age, so there is no reason I should suppose that my feeling of Self should not continue when I leave this body.

Death is certain, what happens after death is uncertain, and within that, I feel, lies the biggest adventure of all.

November 7, 2009 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Wow, Dave's blog triggerred some deep philosophical thoughts. Without getting into the after life, I think it would be fantastic if life was forever. Think of all the different directions you could pursue and all of the knowledge and wisdom you could accumulate without concern of running out of time. The only downside I see is that if life were forever but you were not imortal the risk of many activities might be overwhelming. For example would anyone go skydiving if you were risking losing a life that lasts forever.

November 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGary

I relate this to your Happiness Topic.
Living “safe” or “happy” is not life. As King Leonidas says to Ephialtes, “May you live forever”; that's the ultimate insult, never to be redeemed.
To accept death as just a part of life goes beyond religious conviction. Don’t need to live forever to understand this.
Uncertainty? The opposite of what many people have always sought: Psychic readings, Horoscopes, Positive Thinking, Self-Help, The Secret, all vain attempts at certainty.
Humans can’t predict the weather (now or 100 years from now), much less feign knowing your future.
Most are uncomfortable with that. Look at all the knee-jerk reactions to “save the economy”.
Or else what?

November 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

As someone who enjoys bicycles, and bicycling, I appreciate your cycling thoughts and the digressions that come along for the ride. Keep up the good work.

November 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Your story sounds like when the Kingston memory factory burned. The owners continued paying their employees while they rebuilt. Then when the company hit it big they gave huge bonuses to these employees. These are good places to work.

When I'm touring I like to say, "You never know what you will find by the side of the road." It's amazing what you can find. It's where I found my wife.


November 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRedtaildd
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