Tuesday, May 17, 2022

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Joe's Neighborhood

Stuck in Bad Luck Canyon


Sometimes it seems like the only thing you can win is the short end of the stick. Why is that? Did you break a mirror, walk under a ladder, step on a crack? Honestly, it doesn’t matter how careful you are, some days bad luck seems to be the only road. Sure, Good Luck Avenue is out there somewhere, but there you are in Bad Luck Canyon — with a flat tire — no air in the spare — and is that the last donut?

By the way, I’m not talking serious bad luck, but the kind of bad luck where things just don’t seem to be cutting in your favor. You know what I’m talking about. Like today, I’m in the self-check-out lane at the grocery store and the person in front of me is trying to buy some beer. Fine. Of course the attendant has to verify that the beer-drinker is 21, so I wait. No big deal. Holding my heavy purchases, I wait patiently. Shifting from one foot to the other. Waiting. Yup, that’s me. Waiting. 

Ah, there’s the attendant.

But the attendant goes to help the guy in the other lane who is apparently on some type of fruit fast that requires the weighing and identifying of 32 unusual types of fruit. This could be hours. And now I’m pretty sure that the kid in front of me with the beer is actually skipping class from middle school. 

This is just bad luck. Pure and simple.

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Or, how many of you have taken your car in for a tune-up and thought there won’t be anything major wrong? Don’t be silly. It’s Bad Luck Tuesday. Of course there will be major things wrong.

“Sure, you can drive the car, Joe,” my mechanic said last week, “and all that carbon monoxide coming in through your heater shouldn’t kill you as long as you keep the windows open.”

Dead or chilly? Trust me, those are bad-luck choices.

Or my personal favorite, when the windstorm hits and all the houses around me are unscathed. Yahoo for them. But then I see the neighbors standing around on the sidewalk looking at my house. Hmmm… and when I go outside to see what fun I’m missing, there is the old sycamore tree, my sycamore tree, apparently taking a timeout on my roof.

Such is the life of one who has bad luck.

So, it’s time for a little good luck. For all of us. But where exactly does one find good luck?

“If you touch a chimney sweep, it is considered good luck.” The smiling chimney sweep, Tim Hughes, tells me.

Really? That is all it takes? I just have to find a chimney sweep?

“Occasionally I’ll be somewhere, and someone comes up and touches me. They tell me they just wanted some good luck.” Tim laughs.

Tim Hughes and Eddie Buntenbach are out cleaning and inspecting chimneys for Chiminey Cricket Family Chimney Sweeps — originally started by Tim’s dad in 1983.

“My dad has even been invited to a few weddings because having a chimney sweep at your wedding is considered good luck.” 

I’m 41 years too late for the wedding, but how are chimney sweeps at funerals?

“And not only do chimney sweeps bring good luck,” Eddie adds, “but a cricket on the hearth brings good luck.”

You’re kidding?

“There is actually a ‘roof cricket’ on your chimney that diverts water,” Tim says, “but a chimney cricket, a little model of a cricket on the hearth, is really supposed to bring good luck.”

This, of course, leads to the obvious next question:

“So, while you’re up on the roof do you ever want to play Bert the Chimney Sweep singing and dancing in ‘Mary Poppins?’ ” 

Tim and Eddie look at each other with a twinkle in their eyes. 

“Of course, this is a serious job.” Tim says smiling. “We are trying to make it safe. I think we have really saved people from very dangerous issues like carbon monoxide poisoning. We have gone into houses and seen wood up in the chimney — not a good idea and a real chance of fire. To be able to help people out means a lot to us.” 

“We can leave people with confidence their chimney is safe,” Eddie adds.


“But there is something special about being up on a rooftop around sunset, and you have a great view,” Tim says. “So, yes, I have done ‘Step in Time’ up on the roof, occasionally.”

“Step in Time” is the call-and-response tune sung by Dick Van Dyke and other chimney sweeps on the rooftops of London and composed by the Sherman brothers for “Mary Poppins”: 

“Round the chimney, step in time
Round the chimney, step in time
Never need a reason
Never need a rhyme
Round the chimney, you step in time!”

There you go. Today only. Chimney sweeps. Change your bad luck to good. And, for an added bonus, you now know the correct song to sing when you’re on a rooftop.

By the way, Tim and Eddie inform me that my chimney is totally unsafe and a fire hazard. 

Yup, the short end of the stick. That’s me. Stuck in Bad Luck Canyon. ♦

Joe Weeg spent 31 years bumping around this town as a prosecutor for the Polk County Attorney’s Office. Now retired, he writes about the frequently overlooked people, places and events in Des Moines on his blog: www.joesneighborhood.com.

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