Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Thirteen Is the Loneliest Number

Thirteen Is the Loneliest Number
Omens, Superstitions,
Black Cats, and
Everyone’s Bad, Bad Luck
Superstitions: I have them. Few things give me the heebeejeebees like a black cat crossing my path.
Spill the salt? Pick up that shaker and toss some over my left shoulder; which, really, is “spilling” it again, but at least it’s following the rules.
Walking under a ladder is something I never do. It’s dangerous anyway, but it’s still a superstition.
Open an umbrella in my house and I will chase you outside with a branch of burning sage.
New Year’s Day is for eating black-eyed peas, greens, and herring (if you can stomach it). Washing clothes is forbidden.
Friday the 13th is best spent tucked beneath the covers.
Thirteen: No thirteenth floor for me. When I invoice, the numbers go from 12 straight to 14.
Black cats rank right up there with umbrellas in the house. Goosebumps and a racing heart ensued when a solid black cat trotted in front of my car as I left the Publix parking lot last week. I smeared an X on the car windshield with my fingers. (That’s supposed to cancel the bad luck.) Then I considered all the cars in the Publix parking lot. I wondered how people would get bad luck from that cat on the loose. It was Thursday, the day of the new weekly ad, so I figured hundreds were cursed. That black cat looked about three to four years old, so I then figured it had caused thousands of people bad luck just by walking around day to day.
Figuring yet some more, I realized that cat has crossed the paths of thousands of people and every single one of them has had bad luck. And it has nothing at all to do with the cat, or umbrellas, or spilled salt, or laundry on New Year’s Day, or choking down herring. It’s just bad luck. We want to believe that life, the universe, our orbiting orb has order, sense, sensibility and that if we do the right thing—toss salt, eat herring, avoid undersides of ladders, shun thirteen, and obey all the rules, superstitions attached or not—all will be well.
Life doesn’t work that way. Good luck/bad luck can be rephrased to positive things happen and negative things happen. Of course, life, the universe, and our orbiting orb do have some order, but any scientist will tell us that huge swaths of experiences we face are random, that much chaos reigns, in spite of our efforts to create order and sense. That cat won’t cause me bad luck unless I get so flappy that I don’t pay attention to my driving. The ladder’s underside might be dangerous if I bump it and something or someone comes tumbling down. Plenty of people are wealthy and I am certain they do not gag on herring each New Year’s Day. It’s silly to spill salt twice.
I have had only one wretched Friday the 13th in my 61 years. The rest were just fine, and I didn’t hide under the covers all day. It’s not quite safe to open an umbrella inside, so I’ll still chase you out with a branch of burning sage if you try it here.
My X-marks-the-windshield habit is so ingrained it will be hard to stop when a cat crosses my path. Perhaps I can simply take a deep breath and carry on.

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