Murphy’s Law Is Very Clear

 Murphy’s Law can be very clear on certain points. Most of us are familiar with Murphy’s Law #1, which states that if anything can possibly go wrong, it will. There’s also Murphy’s Corollary #14, which says that if Mark Hunter attempts any manner of mechanically based activities, Murphy’s Law #1 is immediately in effect.

Then there’s Murphy’s Law #27, which was added to the list in 1923 by Murphy’s grandson, G.C. Murphy. I discovered Murphy’s Law #27 several years ago, when I paid off my car.

Yup. Murphy’s Law #27 is the one that states, “Immediately after making the very last payment on something, it will break.”

I looked forward to paying off my car with mixed feelings. My car had been very good to me, and I didn’t want to see the poor thing fall apart just because I didn’t owe anything on it. Still, I figured as long as the cost of repairs didn’t exceed the payments, I’d break even.

Okay, maybe “break” was a bad way to put it.

At the time I had a foreign car, a Nissan. Well, maybe foreign. Since many foreign cars are assembled in the U.S., and many American cars are assembled from parts made in other countries, the only way you can be sure of having an American vehicle these days is to build it yourself.

That I wasn’t prepared to do – see Murphy’s Corollary #14.

The first winter after I paid it off, the gas line froze. But in its defense, I don’t handle winter well, either.


I’ve owned one other foreign car, but it was made in France. The French car started almost every single time I turned the key – but whether it would then go anywhere was a crapshoot. It was a safe car, because cars that won’t leave the driveway rarely get into accidents.

I’ve also owned Fords, Chevys, Pontiacs, and a funky looking white Dodge Omni that my ex-wife sacrificed to the gods of utility poles. I have only one real requirement: They should start when I turn the key, and go where I steer. That’s about it.

My Nissan did that admirably. Then, two months before it would be paid off, I was surprised by a letter from my friendly bank, which informed me my loan had matured, and they would like all the rest of their money. Now.

I had no idea loans matured. I thought they came out of the bank fully grown.

After all, I don’t usually finish paying off a loan before whatever I’m paying for breaks, so what did I know? But I sent the money, then the bank sent me another letter to inform me I overpaid, and here’s my $1.43 refund. Wasn’t that nice of them, to spend $2.67 on paper, envelope and stamp so I could get my $1.43? But they figured it was worth it, as they imagined the look on my face when I opened the envelope.

Now, from the moment I sent in that last check I had the feeling a huge, steel toed shoe was hovering over my head, ready to drop. To my surprise, the doors didn’t fall off when I sent the check. The engine didn’t explode when I received the refund. By the time the title arrived, I was so nervous that I scheduled an oil change, just so I could say I’d taken care of the routine maintenance and was in no way at fault for whatever was about to happen.

The car I bought after the Nissan. Um, this was taken after it was paid off.


As I sat in the waiting room, contemplating the pluses and minuses of buying a moped, the maintenance guy popped his head in and said cheerfully, “Your car is done!”

 My voice rose five octaves. “Oh my gosh! It’s done? Finished? Over? What happened? I need to be with it, to say goodbye–“

“No, no, you don’t understand – I mean, we’re done changing the oil.”

“Oh … thank goodness, I thought –“

“And you’re going to need new brakes soon.”

I refer you back to Murphy’s Law #27.

“How soon?” I asked. “A few months? A year or so?”

“Within two weeks, unless you live for thrills and close calls. You could buy an anchor, but depending on what it hooks onto, that could cause more harm than good.”

The new brakes – and I doubt if I really need to tell you this – cost the same as a car payment. But that’s hardly surprising:

Murphy’s Law is very clear.

(Postscript: My Nissan was later demolished by a hit and run driver. My next car was paid off, then totaled by a hit and stay driver. In my current vehicle, I twitch whenever I see any other cars come close. I’m sure that’s covered by another of Murphy’s Laws.)

My wife in our current car. Which we just paid off, so … it’s just a matter of time.

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6 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law Is Very Clear”

  1. You need to buy another French car.
    They’re going under because of the subs.

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