The 'Luck' of the Irish

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, I’m reminded of a trip my younger brother and I made with my grandparents to the Great Smoky Mountains. 

Now, my grandparents had made many trips to that area, but it was a new experience for me and my brother. To this day I remember a hotel that had a pool with a breathtaking view of the mountains, another sitting right on a rushing stream—and some kind of trading post that had a big black bear outside. 

Throughout the trip, my brother and I would try to get a sense of where the next day’s adventures would take us as we followed along in one of those big fold out roadmaps. But in response to our repeated inquiries as to our next stop, my grandfather would demur, saying only that he was relying on “the luck of the Irish” to find us a place to stay for the night. To this day, I’ve no idea if he truly was or not (the Irish in my heritage doesn’t come from his side of the family, but from my grandmother)—but we always found a place to stay for the night—and comfortable, though certainly not luxurious, accommodations, to boot (not always in the first place we pulled in to, however). There’s some disagreement as to whether or not there IS such a thing as the luck of the Irish (more specifically as to whether that’s good or not-so-good luck), but I can’t come up on St. Patrick’s Day without remembering that trip and my grandfather’s reference[i]

A New ‘Mission’

That all came back to me some years back when I was driving with my family near the Grand Canyon. We hadn’t planned to be there until the following day, but our plans worked out differently, and we started talking about being AT the Grand Canyon for sunrise, and, in a rare burst of spontaneity, all of a sudden it became something of a “mission.” I remember sharing gleefully with my kids my grandfather’s vacation mantra.  

Well, as it turned out, our commitment to the new “objective” notwithstanding, it took longer to get there than I had thought, and when, sometime after 10 pm, after finding there was “no room at the inn” (literally) at an embarrassing number of places (and this after filtering the ones we called on the way and got the same answer), we began to seriously contemplate the possibility of spending the night in a hotel…parking lot.

Our lack of “planning” made for a chilly night at the Grand Canyon, though we spent it in a camper park, not a hotel parking lot. It was a miserable night, to be sure—SO miserable (it gets very cold in the desert at night) that it made it very easy for us to attain our primary objective—to see the Grand Canyon at sunrise (albeit unbathed and somewhat disheveled)—something we’d almost certainly never done if we’d actually gotten into a warm hotel bed that night. 

My grandfather was a great storyteller, though you couldn’t always tell when he was pulling your leg. As a consequence, I’ve no idea if my grandfather was at all stressed about not finding a motel in the Tennessee foothills the way I was out in the middle of the Arizona desert (in the middle of the night). 

That said, it seems that lots of American workers are heading toward their potential retirements with no real idea as to whether or not there will be suitable accommodations at the end of that journey. While there are—and have long been—plenty of surveys out there that reveal concerns about that possibility, there’s little to suggest that those concerns are motivating action, or even some time spent considering the possibilities. It’s as though they, like my grandfather, are relying on “the luck of the Irish.”

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, there will be parades, the gathering of four-leaf clovers (which aren’t as rare as you may have been led to believe), and plenty of unnaturally green beverages, not to mention references to leprechauns and their pots of gold. Indeed, tradition says that if you catch a leprechaun, he can be coerced into giving you some gold—but tradition also holds that they’re hard to catch, and even harder to hang on to. 

As one might well imagine, a comfortable retirement without planning and action will be. 

 - Nevin E. Adams, JD


[i] Apparently, its origins go back to the 1800s here in the U.S., and a preponderance of Irish settlers here that fared well during the California Gold Rush.


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