Being a law-abiding citizen, I try to observe the law. The law even says I’m responsible for obeying laws I’m not aware of, but, hey, I’m doing the best I can.

In fact, I’m so conscientious, I try – every chance I get – to obey all of Isaac Newton’s famous laws, even though I was never that good at high school physics and don’t know exactly what Ol’ Isaac wants me to do or not do, but like I say, I’m doing my best.

I do know that Newton’s first law is often called the law of “inertia,” and let me tell you, the older I get, the easier that legal concept is for me. After settling in my La-Z-Boy recliner with my remote, I can become completely inert in accordance with that law.

So, there’s at least one law that I’m feeling pretty comfortable about.

I was thinking about laws that govern our lives in the physical realm the other day when I was looking for a screw driver to accomplish a simple task. OK, nosy, I’ll tell you what the task was. I was trying to take the tough plastic cap off a propane bottle so I could fire up my gas grill.

From past experience, I knew that a regular flat head screwdriver was the perfect tool for the job. Simple.

But as I walked toward my tool draw I understood that the well-known but little-understood law known as “the law of Phillips head inevitability” would be in force. The screwdriver is named for its inventor, Henry F. Phillips, of Portland, Oregon.

They say the importance of Mr. Phillips’ screwdriver has something to do with its crosshead screw design, which gives it its self-centering property, useful on automated production lines that use powered screwdrivers.

But I digress.

The law of Phillip’s head inevitability simply states that your chances of finding a flat-head screwdriver decrease in direct proportion to your degree of specific need. For the unscientific among you, that means the more you need a flat-head, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to find only Phillips heads.

Digging into my well-organized tool draw, I found that the law was indeed in effect. There were no fewer than five Phillips screwdrivers of various sizes and colors staring up at me and not a flat-head anywhere in sight.

I was talking about all this to my neighbor, Wink Sawyer, who, after hearing my tale, thought for a minute and then said, “Yes, John I know what you mean. And have you ever noticed that when you accidentally drop a piece of bread with jelly on it, it always lands jelly-side down? Or when you can’t find your keys and you’re looking all over the place for them, they always seem to turn up in the last place you think of looking. Ever notice that?” Wink asked.

Now, I always knew from talking to him over the years that Wink – well, let’s just say he has a room upstairs that isn’t finished. After Wink’s latest observations, I realized something else. Not only did he have a room upstairs that wasn’t finished, but all the carpenters had walked off the job.

John McDonald is the author of six books on Maine, including his latest, “Moose Memoirs and Lobster Tales.” Contact him at [email protected]

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