A while back, I saw a semi-truck travelling down Highway 89. It was a beer truck. In big logo lettering on the side of the huge van trailer, it read “Keystone Light.” Then in smaller, but still quite large, lettering were the words of a slogan, “Parties Happen.”

That same day, in the evening, I was flipping channels on TV and saw part of a sports show on ESPN. A Jack Daniels whiskey advertisement came on. At the end of the ad, the voice-over message said, “Whatever you’re celebrating, celebrate responsibly.”

Those two ads got me to thinking. (I know, I know – once again, me thinking is weird and dangerous.) What I saw in the two slogans was differing philosophical ways of looking at the world.

“Parties happen” represents the “you can’t escape your destiny” approach to life. You don’t have control over what life is going to bring to you.

So the best you can do is attempt to be prepared for the eventualities that may come your way. If life deals you a party, because they just happen, you’d better have a 30-pack case of beer at the ready in the refrigerator.

“Celebrate responsibly” implies that there is a decision making process involved in life. There are choices to be made. The marketers at the Jack Daniels distillery don’t care what you’re celebrating. But ostensibly at least, and I have to believe sincerely, they want their customers to make responsible decisions with their celebrating.

I, personally, pretty much subscribe to the Forrest Gump school of thought on the subject. Remember at the end of the movie? — as the feather is floating in the air, Forrest says: “I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it’s both.”

Sometimes we don’t have control over situations that happen in our lives. But we do have some control over how we react to the situations. It’s a tricky business.

An incident from the McDonald’s restaurant in Beaver comes to mind. (And I use the term “restaurant” loosely. Even though that’s what the joint likes to call itself.)

This happened years ago when my kids were still at home and we were on a day trip for skiing at what was then called Elk Meadows Resort, now known as Eagle Point.

The teenage girl working the drive through window handed out a cup of hot chocolate to me. The hot chocolate was dripping down the side of the cup and oozing out from under the lid. It was messy. It was icky.

I said to the girl something like, “Umm, this is really a mess. It’s dripping down the side.” I was thinking that she’d take it back and apologize and get me a more acceptable serving.

How she responded became a family joke that gets repeated quite often to this day. She simply said, “Oh, it does that.” Her tone conveyed the message that I should understand the inevitability of drippy, sloppy hot drink cups.

“It does that.” It happens. Parties happen. Death and taxes happen. “Stuff” (or any other word you want to substitute) happens. It does that!

Even though she may have thought that destiny ruled the hot chocolate cup world, she really had a choice. Rather than attempt to fix the problem, the choice she made was to expect me to accept the fact that sloppy, messed up, hot chocolate servings were my destiny.

And, I had a choice too. And on that occasion, being a bit taken aback by her response, and unlike what I think I would normally do, I simply wrapped a napkin around the cup and accepted that a “party had just happened.” I did, however, “celebrate responsibly” and was careful that I didn’t burn my tongue.

In my experience, parties usually need a little planning – even if it’s done spur of the moment. Celebrations fit into the same category, unless they’re spontaneous upon winning the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes or a gigantic jackpot in Las Vegas. Neither of those things has happened to me.

I think we all could use a few more parties and celebrations. So if it looks like one is going to happen or should happen, let’s be responsible and help it be a success regardless of what beverages we might have on hand.

In other matters, it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow! Express your love to family and friends by giving away flowers or chocolate or something. A nicely prepared, clean, cup of hot chocolate would be a good gift too, wouldn’t it?

A smile to end with:

On Valentine’s Day morning, Emma woke up with a start. Her husband Jim asked what was the matter. She told him, “I just had a dream that you gave me a pearl necklace for Valentine’s Day. What do you think it means?” “You’ll know tonight,” Jim said.

That evening, Jim came home with a small package and gave it to his wife. Delighted, Emma opened it – only to find a book entitled “The Meaning of Dreams.”