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In the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, there were 287 gods and goddesses of relatively higher and lower stature. Of those, fully 239 seemed to have something to do with getting from one place to another over a body of water without being eaten by a sea monster, drowned in a boiling whirlpool, blown to faraway lands, having your ship fall apart underneath you, or being shipwrecked on an unknown island and having a bad television sitcom made about the experience. Even Odysseus – also known as Ulysses depending on whether you’re reading a translation of the Greek or Latin versions of Homer’s epic tale – who has the daughter of the big cheese of all the gods working on his side, still takes 20 years to get from Troy back to Ithaca. Why? Because he’s pissed off every god that has something to do with boat travel. It should be noted, Odysseus didn’t even have a framitz stabilizer on his ship.
Of course, Odysseus didn’t know about Murphy. Neither did the old-timey sailors who invented all the sea gods, goddesses and monsters. All they knew was what every modern day sailor knows. What, I hear you ask, is that? It’s simply this: From the moment you set foot on a boat, even the most stalwart atheist will come to feel so personally persecuted by powers unknown and unknowable that the only rational explanation is the gods have it in for you.
Say you’re traveling south one day. For the preceding 3,491 days the wind might have been blowing south, a condition sailors refer to as a following breeze. Sailors, unless they’re boasting, always refer to wind as a breeze. If they’re boasting, they refer to it as a gale. But I digress. It doesn’t matter that the wind has blown south for as long as history has been recorded. The day you decide to head south, the wind will turn around and blow right in your face, a condition sailors refer to as taking it on the nose. Most anyone who wasn’t a sailor would refer to it as taking it up some other, more posterior anatomical feature but that’s neither here nor there. Taking wind on the nose is the most miserable place to take it because it means the boat is pounding into oncoming waves, the wind is tousling your hair and, sure as the sun rises in the east – which it sometimes doesn’t when you’re on a boat, meaning you’re lost and your compass isn’t working any more – your framitz stabilizer is going to break, leaving you unstable in high seas.