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RSVPhillippi | MAY 2018


Why Tempt Fate?

As I write this it is Friday the 13th, which is several days past my deadline, which is way past my deadline, and I know a lot of people who are very superstitious about this day. I have a friend who rearranged her vacation schedule one year specifically to avoid flying on Friday the 13th. Mind you, she also believes that it’s unlucky to wear matching shoes, but that’s not important here. Thirteen has always been my favorite number for some reason, maybe because it’s supposed to be unlucky. I also own a black cat. Generally speaking, I’m not a superstitious person.

Okay, that is a huge lie. I have all kinds of superstitions, just not those two. It took years for my wife to stop making fun of me for the salt over the shoulder thing. I have no idea where I got it, but if I even touch salt, even on a potato chip, I unconsciously toss a grain, possibly even an imagined grain, over my left shoulder, even if someone happens to be sitting or standing behind me. I think the original reasoning was that salt was such a precious resource you should remind yourself not to waste it. I’ve also heard that it has something to do with throwing it in the face of the Devil, which I would certainly do, given the opportunity. I mean, he’s the Devil for crying out loud.

I also compulsively pick up pennies that are lying face up. If it’s lying face down I won’t come near it, but if Lincoln’s mug is showing it goes in my back pocket. The only reason I can imagine for this habit is I’m kind of an idiot.

There are plenty more, mostly coming from my days in theater, and once I started realizing how many of these I have accumulated, I decided to make myself feel better by asking others on social media about their superstitions. I do, in fact, feel better about myself.

A lot of the responses were standard things, like carrying a St. Christopher medal when traveling, knocking on wood when being overconfident, never wearing socks to bed because you’ll get worms.  So…the first two of those I’ve heard a million times, but the third is when I started to notice that my friends on social media are at least as weird as me.

One woman said that she has to have every thing in all of her kitchen drawers in the exact same place every time, including the spatulas being face down, and if someone else empties the dishwasher and put things in the wrong place she has to reset everything or she can’t sleep. I’m not sure if that's superstition or possibly a condition that can be medically treated.

A disturbing number of people invoked superstitions that require spitting. One person’s grandfather felt so strongly about the black cat thing that if he encountered one he would take off his hat, spit in it, and wear it backwards. There has to be a superstition related to what to do if you happen to spit in your own hat. Another said that if someone mops or sweeps over your feet you have to spit on the mop or broom head to counter the bad juju just placed on your feet. I’d like to be around him at closing time in a bar, I’m not sure the staff cleaning up would be all that cool with being spit at.

One friend of mine doesn’t shave on Tiger football off days; he only shaves after the game. Considering how the Tiger’s football team has been in recent years, I think we all encourage him to continue this tradition.

Not surprisingly, numbers played a big part in people’s superstitions, particularly the mark of the beast. One guy won’t let his fitbit, whatever that is, stop on any number combination that involves 666. Apparently it’s unhealthy. Another said that if his bill is $6.66 or he is given a bill or table that is numbered 13, he will ask for another seat, or ask to buy another item to fix the total, then he apologizes for being mentally ill. That’s not my joke, that’s what he actually does.  Another said he has to keep pumping gas until the total amount is divisible by a quarter. I can see being obsessed with round numbers, I’m guilty of that, but not to the point where I pour gas on my feet.

I love this one. A woman I know said that she cannot go to bed without showering first, which isn’t that odd, but she has to shower before bed because otherwise she’s certain she will get sick. If she does, heaven forfend, get in bed without showering she will eventually have get up, change the sheets, and take a shower before getting back into bed. She described this condition as “stupid.”  I describe it as hygienic.

Someone said that she has to have all of her Christmas decorations completely down by midnight on December 31st. That’s not a superstition, that’s a rule. It was put into place so lazy people like me don’t leave our Christmas lights up until June and think well, hey, it’s already halfway to Christmas, I think I’ll just leave them up.

There were plenty of gambling superstitions, all of which involved doing something silly when someone else does something different.  Gamblers have a lot of superstitions because they’re gamblers. By definition they are already tempting fate.

One of my friends said he gets nervous around people who unexpectedly start swinging an ax. This begs the question, are there times in this man’s life when people expectedly start swinging an ax?

We all know these things are goofy and pointless and shouldn’t be taken seriously, but nonetheless I won’t be driving today. I mean, it’s Friday the 13th for God’s sake.

Oh, and this column always has to come out to exactly 1,000 words or else.