Superstitions don’t worry me (knock)
I sure hope I don’t jinx myself by writing this column. (Knock on wood. That should take care of it.)
With Halloween arriving a week from today, it’s time to think about ghosts and spirits. I don’t have many of those in my daily life (cross my fingers and hope for luck), but I sure have a lot of superstitions.
I have no idea where most of them came from. I just know I’m not going to throw a hat on a bed (someone might die), step on a crack (and break my mother’s back) or walk underneath a ladder (because some clumsy carpenter might drop a drill on my head).
Anyone with religious faith knows there are forces at work beyond our understanding. So we pray, do unto others as we would have them do unto us, set an example of moral leadership and make sure we say “God bless you” when someone sneezes so the devil doesn’t fly in their mouth.
Does it strike you as hypocritical or absurd that people should live in a world dominated by science and technology yet persist in carrying around with us the superstitions of the Middle Ages? I don’t think so. In fact, I think we adopt superstitions as a way of coping with an overwhelming world and, of course, to have something to blame when it all goes wrong.
You never know.
For example, we have a horseshoe nailed over the front door of our house. Pointed up, of course, lest all the good luck run out.
My mother practically knocked me down one day not long ago when she noticed a penny lying in the mall parking lot. I think that had more to do with her thriftiness than any superstitions, though. I know I would have checked first to make sure it was heads-up before I touched it.
It doesn’t come up much in Nevada, of course, but I’m sure you’re aware that you should never open an umbrella inside the house. I have no idea why. But I don’t take any chances.
Do you toss spilled salt over your left shoulder? It’s especially fun in restaurants.
Break a mirror, seven years of bad luck. There seem to be many theories about this, ranging from the mundane (mirrors were so valuable it would take seven years to repay the cost) to the spiritual (something about a goddess admiring herself in a pool of still water when some scamp tossed in a pebble and “shattered” the image).
Just so you’re reassured, there are no more Friday the 13ths coming this year. The last one was in June, so you should be over that by now. The next one will be in February, so start planning ahead now.
Have you ever been driving to work and turned a block early because you saw a black cat crossing the street ahead of you? How about if you were heading into the sportsbook to place a bet – would you just turn around and say, “Better luck next time?”
In a gambling state, the good-luck charms and rituals are part of the territory. Walk into some slot parlors and it looks like Discount Day at the Beanie Baby shop. Same thing with bingo halls. I didn’t know that many hairy troll dolls were still in existence.
Even if they’re not a bettors, sports fans know they have the potential for influencing the outcome of a game involving their favorite team simply by:
n Wearing a certain piece of clothing, usually too garish or dilapidated for polite company.
n Sitting in exactly the same chair (or bar stool), particularly when the team needs to make an important field goal. If you lean in the the proper direction while the ball is in the air, it helps.
n Turning off the television in disgust midway through the game and not watching at all, which is pretty much the only way to inspire your team to a dramatic and historic comeback people will be talking about for years.
Just checking: You do get up on the same side of the bed as you lie down, right? If not, it would go a long way to explain the number of grouchy people these days.
I’m not sure if there are any Nevada-specific superstitions, although off the top of my head I think these might apply:
n Don’t follow a horse in the Nevada Day parade.
n If you want to be re-elected, hand out candy at the Governor’s Mansion on Halloween.
n It’s bad luck to cross Carson Street in the dark.
n Four-leaf clovers, a rabbit’s foot or a lucky buckeye in your pocket won’t get you as far as holding onto your last $20 bill.
Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal.