Bad Luck? Good Luck!
It’s a historic moment: Dr. Wolfgang
No fanfare, no glamour, no showers of confetti. Probably no one even clapped when the 999,999th
Close, but no cigar. That may be the case, but it would be a big mistake to view this “near miss” state of affairs as something negative. True, no one rejoices if they fail to win the lottery because they favored thirty-one over thirty-two somehow for murky psychological reasons or chose nine instead of eight because of their birthday. Except for the proverbial horseshoes and hand grenades, it doesn’t matter a bit how closely one misses one’s goal. It’s like missing a train. What’s lost is lost, gone is gone, regardless of whether it’s by ten seconds or an hour.
Meticulously polished every day
What life on a rotating center stage means for a car is brilliantly conveyed in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Ferris is a teenager with a talent for truancy. He has a friend named Cameron, whose father has a—sorry—Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder, a 500-hp machine, which he never drives but keeps in a glass pavilion like a very chic prison cell (where it’s meticulously polished every day). Finally, however, Ferris and Cameron take the car for a joyride where it truly belongs: on the open road. Granted, the car doesn’t survive the end of the film, but at least it was driven. It was a car and was allowed to be more than a polished statue or an abstract number.
Narrowly missing the big number robs you of glamour—but grants you freedom. That makes the 999,999th 911 the one that got away. Number 1,000,000 is the museum piece, the collector’s object, the auction item. Number 999,999 is the fine-but-underestimated car that rolls away just before the commotion breaks loose, out into freedom and a wild, real life.
Life of a libertine
The second step of the winners’ platform may not be what single-minded fighters set their sights on. On the other hand, it might not be a bad deal to exchange some fame for the good life of a libertine who’s free to follow the desires of the heart. If you’ve ever secretly (or not so secretly) watched America’s Got Talent, you know that a runner-up can take the world by storm while the winner fades into obscurity. Have you heard of Michael Grimm? He won the fifth season but hasn’t made a splash since. Jackie Evancho, who finished second that season, is practically a household name. If literature is more your speed, you might be familiar with the famous line from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 2: “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” One would add, by extension, that those who don’t wear a crown have broader horizons to explore. Which is why—speaking of crowns—some people would prefer Harry’s role to William’s.
All the horrendous, paralyzing expectations lie heavy on the number one. They’re also the reason why New Year’s Eve parties are invariably less fun and more contrived than the impromptu affairs on days one proceeds to forget, while the memories of the parties live on. The same applies to the furor that accompanies milestone birthdays. All too often these occasions feel awkward and stilted, like a stiff suit collar, in contrast to the carefree celebrations of turning twenty-nine, thirty-nine, or forty-nine, which enjoy a “phew-still-have-another-year” flair. The round number of an age often prompts guests to make overly zealous comments. They constantly want to know how one feels and what plans one will now be making. There it is again, that tedious pressure and troublesome hype.
Life, after all, isn’t a round number, and is only rarely the stage for a perfectly timed appearance. It’s full of dents, uneven bits, and all manner of near misses. Sometimes the road is a little rough. But above all: a car isn’t meant to sit under the bright lights of a museum but instead to zoom through this gloriously mixed-up and imperfect life. For instance, to southern France or some other marvelous destination in this world of ours. In the red
By Anja Rützel
Photos by Heiko Simayer
Rob Tenuta, a fifty-one-year-old contractor from Woodbridge, Ontario (near Toronto), is the owner of the 999,999th
One Million 911s